Zimbabwean asylum seekers making a trail back home

Zimbabwean asylum seekers making a trail back home
Published: 22 January 2012 (4133 Views)
State media analysts say the increasing rate at which Zimbabweans are flocking back home, despite having labelled the country as "mismanaged and undemocratic" have increased in the last fives.

The Sunday Mail reports that the move by the returning Zimbabweans flies in the face of the nations that attempted to have Zimbabwe isolated on the pretext there was no rule of law in the country.

The turn of the new millennium witnessed an exodus of Zimbabweans who sought political and economic asylum or refugee status in other countries.

In the host countries, they came up with a wide range of reasons for deserting Zimbabwe, chief among them being the "fear of persecution from the Zanu-PF Government".

The countries, the majority of which later ganged against Zimbabwe in a bid to denigrate President Mugabe’s government, accepted the immigrants with open arms to back up claims that all was not well in the Southern African country.

But just 10 years down the line, the majority of the nationals, now categorised as either asylum seekers or refugees in countries such as Britain, Canada and Australia, are making a trail back to Zimbabwe.

The question that begs an answer is: What has changed in Zimbabwe to warrant the frequent return of those individuals who previously claimed "it was all war in the streets of Zimbabwe and people of alternative political views were being shot on sight"?

According to the United Nations 1951 Refugee Convention, refugees are people who have left their place of habitual residence, "owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion."

Analysts said it was ironic that those who had deserted the country were now coming back despite the fact that President Mugabe, whom they accused of all sorts of undemocratic vices, is still at the helm of the country; the security sector accused of unleashing terror on unarmed civilians was still under the command of the same service chiefs; laws which were labelled as violating human rights remain the same and worse, still, elections, which have been tainted as bloody are just around the corner.

Political commentator Mr Goodson Nguni said the return of the Zimbabweans made true claims that the MDC sponsored the exodus.

"It confirms that the MDC was behind those people who left the country. It has always been said the party sponsored some elements to leave the country and campaign at international level. It was a racket," he said.

"The countries that accepted these Zimbabweans knew all along that they were lying that there was no rule of law in Zimbabwe and that the country was being ruled by a dictatorship. How are they managing to go in and out of the country because that ‘dictatorship’ they claimed to be ruling Zimbabwe is still in charge?

"It confirms that there is rule of rule in Zimbabwe because these people are coming and not being arrested as they claimed when they applied for political asylum."

Many people who have been granted refugee status in some countries have in the past five or so years visited the country on a regular basis.

This is despite the fact that back in the countries that they have settled, they continue to refuse to be classified as simple job seekers, preferring to stay as refugees and do menial jobs.

In 2010, President Mugabe taunted those who had left the country, saying despite some doctors having disparaged him and the Government to gain entry into the United Kingdom, they remained Zimbabweans.

"Kunyika kwavakatizira ikoko kunana Britain havasisina basa navo," he said.

"Vangangopihwawo twuwelfare pano nepapo, asi mabasa anowanikwa ndiwo ekukwenya tumisana twechembere.

"Zvino ungayambuka makungwa nemakungwa kunokwenya itwo twumisana itwotwo? (The host countries do not really care about those who emigrated any more. They might get welfare funds intermittently, but many of them are doing menial jobs."

According to experts, people awaiting confirmation of their refugee status are termed "asylum seekers".

Unsubstantiated figures show that about three million Zimbabweans are resident outside the country as asylum seekers or refugees.

However, National University of Science and Technology Dean of Political Studies Dr Lawton Hikwa said the economic stability in the country was luring those in the Diaspora.

"A number of people could not get asylum and are living in foreign countries illegally. The truth is finally catching up with them as they can no longer continue to evade immigration officials. They must come back either to put their papers in order or stay for good," said Dr Hikwa.

"The other thing is that when a country is going through a bad period, people tend to flee for either economic or political reasons. But since 2009 the situation seems to be normalising, that is why we are recording this influx of people."

Life in countries such as Britain is no longer simple with the country pushing for immigration regulations that will tighten screws on foreign nationals.

While it is estimated that about 100 000 Zimbabweans live in the UK, about three quarters are asylum seekers.

According to the 2009 Global Trends: Refugees, Asylum-Seekers, Returnees, Internally Displaced and Stateless Persons, about 158 000 Zimbabweans applied for asylum in various countries in 2008 alone

Between 40 000 and 50 000 Zimbabweans are estimated to have been living in Botswana as of 2009 with one million in South Africa in 2008.

But many of these people are now coming back home.

Last December, officials at Beitbridge Border Post raised an SOS for the beefing of staff at the port of entry to cater for Zimbabweans returning from South Africa.

Ironically, the same nationals allege Zimbabwe is not a safe place and would rather stay as refugees in the countries they migrated to.

- Sunday Mail

Tags: asylum, seekers,
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