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Home Office rejects Zimbabwe country guidance case


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A new Operational Guidance Note for Zimbabwe has been published by the Home Office. These OGNs are basically central guidance to asylum decision-makers in the Home Office. They contain the Home Office policy on what categories of person from different countries might qualify for asylum.

The new Zimbabwe OGN is a rambling and repetitive document, but the rub eventually comes at 3.6.16:

“Although deplorable, a significant feature of the human rights abuses that are occurring now is that they have been for reasons other than those which led the AIT to conclude that those who were unable to demonstrate loyalty to ZANU-PF would generally be at risk. The evidence of the past six months or so therefore no longer supports the contention that Zimbabweans are at risk merely because they would be unable to show support for ZANU-PF (and there have been instances where ZANU PF supporters have been harassed or hurt, especially if perceived to have ‘betrayed’ the regime). A grant of asylum solely on this basis will not therefore usually be appropriate.”

This is a clear rejection of the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal’s central finding in RN (Returnees) Zimbabwe CG [2008] UKAIT 00083 that all those unable to demonstrate loyalty to ZANU-PF are refugees. There are still categories that the Home Office accept may be refugees, such as political activists, human rights defenders, members of civil society, and those in sensitive professions, such as journalists and teachers.

For those new to this saga, I think this link takes you to most of the relevant old posts on this blog as well as some not so relevant ones.

How will immigration judges react? I’ve no idea. The Home Office argument is essentially that time has moved on since RN. RN is still a country guideline case, though, so it will be for the Home Office to show that it should not be followed at appeal hearings. HOPOs will need to produce country information to show that RN is now wrong and the situation has changed. Meanwhile, the tribunal will presumably line up yet another country guideline case, which is likely to take months.

What does this mean for those who have made new or fresh claims based on RN? Well, their claims will be rejected by the Home Office (unless they can show they fall into a category of person accepted by the Home Office to be at risk) and they will need to appeal. What the country and case law situation will be by the time such appeals come up, only time will tell.

What about those who are stuck in queues in the higher courts? It looks like there will be no general amnesty or similar by the Home Office and each case will just have to wait its turn. At the moment the Home Office has been offering to make new decisions but has refused to offer guarantees as to how long it will take to get a new decision. Accepting such offers now looks like an even worse idea than it already was.

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The Free Movement blog was founded in 2007 by Colin Yeo, a barrister at Garden Court Chambers specialising in immigration law. The blog provides updates and commentary on immigration and asylum law by a variety of authors.


19 Responses

  1. Should I really be finding out about this from the ‘other side’?

    I left the office quite late today and hadn’t had the email about this yet.

    So much for the review of all asylum decisons in light of RN once again its in the hands of the HOPOs. BWAHAHAHAHA!

    1. I emailed some-one at the HO recently and promptly received a reply. Later that day I tried to send another e-mail to the same person and it kept bouncing for a further two days.
      Given the Public sector’s record on IT (see yesterdays report about HMRC) I am not the slightest bit surprised.

      I had to email a BHC last year three or four times before I got a reply. When I did get a reply, they said they had no record of my previous emails. Thankfully this year things have improved a lot there. Its the only thing that has improved there, sadly.

  2. I detect a whiff of political pressure; would Wacky Jacqui and Wolly Wollas want to give any ZM asylum seekers access to the job market etc? :)

  3. fm what of those who have send photos to the home office already will they be refused asap

    1. Those whose applications or appeals have already succeeded should still get status. There is always a delay before the status papers are actually issued but there should not be any review during this time. If there is and they change their mind, go and see a good lawyer.

    2. what happens to cases at the high court that have succeeded at the ait under AA and have been appealled by ukba taking into account RN is a breakaway of AA. [PS: won at ait since 2005 and still waiting]

  4. Was in Taylor House with an overexcited HOPO with this unsourced portion of this OGN. Its so opinionated and YES it repetitive. The enitire page 10 on which para 3.6.15-18 appear is not sourced and is the opinion of some policy flunky in the HO

    1. That’s OGNs for you. To be fair to the Home Office, at least they split their country reports from their policy positions, and the country reports (called COIS) are now an awful lot better as a result.

  5. STUDENTS:- No doubt everyone knows but there is, I think of today, no out of country right of appeal to the AIT (and students are permitted only one non statutory administrative review per refusal). In country students may still be able to appeal.

    Roll on the High Court……

  6. PO’s here are instructed to review decisions in light of RN and OGNs and either proceed or recommend withdrawing the decision based on chances of sucess in court. Something many of us have been doing and which has resulted in many refusal decisions being withdrawn the day before the hearing and a grant of status being made.

    1. That’s an interesting distinctions from other HOPOs’ comments on here.

      Is it still the case with that policy FM just mentioned?

    2. I can’t speak for ageing HOPO, but … it is definitely the current policy at my POU. There is no ‘policy’ to maintain decisions which are clearly contrary to RN. The OGN which FM is upset about is simply , what it says on the tin ‘guidance’ and is not blindly followed and does not profess to state that RN is wrong. Decision makers should be having reference to it as they woudl any other piece of evidence when considering cases in RN and at appeal PO’s should be including it and serving it to provide the AIT with all available evidence, when making decisions under RN. Naturally, it is a matter for the AIT how much weight to place on it. From what I’ve heard IJ’s are not placing much weight on the OGN at the moment, certainly not enough to be pursuaded to go against the masses of objective evid. considered in and the findings of RN.

    3. I’m sorry but the OGN explicitly refutes and rejects RN (despite the Home Office choosing not to appeal the decision) and the OGN sets out official Home Office policy. Officials may choose not to follow or apply it, but the policy is abundantly clear. I would say the OGN displays a shocking disregard for the rule of law, but sadly such disregard is now routine.

    4. Its the wonders of regionalisation, each region does its own thing, PO’s are no longer members of one cohesive organisation.

      Also FM is correct the OGN sets out the policy that we are supposed to follow it details the official position of the Home Office that the situation has changed in Zimbabwe and RN is no longer good law, they just forgot to refer us to the objective evidence to back up that position.

    5. APO

      The OGN may not be “blindly” followed by IJs on appeal, but what is happening at initial decision making time? OGNs would have more weight then?
      After all 80% of Zimbabweans were refused asylum on initial application.

  7. How long does one has to wait before the HO sends the status after the court has given a determination? Some people have waited for more than 4 months without an benefits.How are these people supposed to live?They are homeless and when they phone the HO they are tol to wait.


    Thanx to FREE MOVEMENT-This blog has been helping my CASE(ZIMBABWE-COUNTRY OF ORRIGIN).

    WAS BASED ON (RN)-Surprisingly HOPO’s did not APPEAR in COURT to challenge me!!! l had a BARRISTER representing me!!

    Will lay down my case in Good Time,when there is no FEAR of Victimisation,once l have my STATUS in HAND!!

    God Bless You -FREE MOVEMENT.I don’t know why HOPO did not APPEAR before IJ,against me?

  9. Most zimbabweans are still in limbo in sheffield. Their fresh claims haven’t been responded to and with their support cut and homeless, one could imagine how desperate they are in this cold. Any suggestion as to how o get their cases resolved as quickly as possible is highly welcomed. Thanks. A B