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Zimbabwe update


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map_of_zimbabweThis post falls firmly into the ‘gossip’ category and cannot be taken as reliable because it is based on my own incomplete understanding. This is also a very fast moving situation and even if I have this right today it may well be wrong tomorrow. If anyone has further information, please leave a comment and I will update this post.

I’ve been at Field House, seat of the Senior Immigration Judges, a few times since RN became public knowledge and one of my cases was a Zimbabwean one. Rather oddly the SIJ ‘reserved’ his decision, meaning he will send it to us in writing later via the Home Office, and did not announce a decision immediately or suggest to the Home Office that they grant asylum and save the hassle of having even to write a decision himself. Still, I’m optimistic we will have won that one.

However, it seems that things have moved on a little. The tribunal and courts are talking to the policy people at the Home Office (a Ms Annetts if I heard her name correctly) and the Home Office are apparently saying they will review all Zimbabwean cases awaiting reconsideration and high court decisions with a view to deciding whether they should be granted asylum under RN. Some HOPOs are reported to be conceding cases, which I took to mean undertaking to grant asylum, although I saw one today initially saying that he could not before agreeing to do so. HOPOs have also apparently been told not to apply for adjournments on the basis that RN will be appealed. It was not clear to me from this whether there is an intention to appeal RN or not.

Irrespective of whether they appeal, all this seems to point in the direction of the Home Office actually granting asylum to Zimbabweans, rather than keeping them hanging on for any longer. Whether this turns out to be true only time will tell.

If a case has been successful and the appeal process is over, the Home Office are obliged to grant refugee status and their policy is to grant five years leave to remain. If they fail to act on their obligation an application for judicial review can be made after a reasonable time. Giving them six weeks or so is probably a minimum.

At the end of the five years there is no review of risk and as long as the refugee has not committed crimes and can pass the citizenship test, he or she will get settlement. However, the Refugee Convention itself does not require a person to be given permanent settlement in a country of refuge and its benefits can be withdrawn if the situation in the country of origin changes (Article 1C of the convention). Since 2005 this has been reflected in Home Office policy: if peace does suddenly break out in a previously war torn or unstable country, a review of all cases from that country that don’t yet have settlement can be ordered, and they can have their refugee status and leave to remain removed, with a right of appeal against that decision.

I’ve always thought that this was unlikely ever to happen as the Home Office has plenty to do already without creating more work, and the cost to the Legal Services Commission in funding all these appeals (although those with jobs would probably not be eligible) would be considerable.

But… the policy exists, and if things do settle down in Zimbabwe, one of these reviews may happen.

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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.


16 Responses

  1. FM what will happen to all the legacy cases with fresh claims which HO are only saying wait till 2011

  2. FM, your info, generally speaking, is on the mark

    Leave to appeal deadline is 28 11 08, however as Steven Kovats was told not to cross examine any of the witnesses, the grapevine tells me that our Counsel’s advise (I don’t’ know is this is from Kovats, but tend to assume that it is) is that an appeal against RN does not have a realistic prospect of success (be it to the AIT or directly to the COA thereafter).

    Case Owners have been instructed not to serve any decisions in Zimbabwean cases until further guidance is given. The Minister and SSHD have been briefed on the situation, we await their decision.

    Putting aside where any of us may stand, on the system and on the rationale of the decision, words other than ‘bomb shell’ would be insufficient to describe the shock that RN has caused within the Home Office.

    Whilst I (and may HOPO’s), may disagree with the stance that Mark Henderson took, I have to accept that RN may well have been his crowning Tour De Force.


  3. LondonHOPO, thanks for that. I’m a bit surprised that the Home Office is so surprised, though. I’d have thought that given the first AA case won, suggesting it was always going to be fairly finely balanced in future, given the expert evidence was unchallenged and given the increasing sympathy for Zimbabweans in the press (our judiciary are far from immune to such considerations) there was always a strong possibility (real risk, even) that the appeal would be allowed.

    Can I ask what stance Mark Henderson took with which you and other HOPOs disagree?

  4. Farai, I doubt that Zimbabweans in the Legacy backlog will be fast tracked in any way, although you never know. See the Legacy category of posts (right hand bar) for information on what’s going on with Legacy cases generally and who is eligible for accelerated decisions. My guess at this time would be that those cases will be kept waiting for months or years. In the meantime the situation in Zimbabwe will improve and when the decisions are eventually made asylum will be refused.

    The obligation to grant status only kicks in once a case is successful. There’s no real obligation to assess and decide a case within any particular timescale, although you would have thought that humanity and good administration would require a relatively swift decision.

  5. Indeed London HOPO, I echo FM’s thanks for the info.

    While the transfer of the perceived risk from specific people to the general populous is indeed an unusual shift, the timing to me was overdue. 11 million % inflation, political instability, food shortages, Aids epidemic, 2008 press coverage, deportation ban, etc. – the writing was on the wall.

    I suspect that the judge held at the back of his mind that Zimbabwe (Rhodesia) was under British rule until the early 80s. In effect Britain was partly responsible for the mess in passing power over to this dictator, Mr Mugabe.

    So what now is the general advice to undocumented Zimbabweans in the UK, possibly make a fresh asylum claim?

  6. I have received a letter to the effect that the High Court/Administrative Court will not decide on my case until AA Zimbabwe is finally decided.My understanding was that AA Zimbabwe was gratnted refugee status this year.Why am being treated as subhuman?My case was allowed by Immigration Judge and a Senior Immigration Judge ruled that decision had no errrors of law.Why does the high Court treat people this way?

  7. “Farai, I doubt that Zimbabweans in the Legacy backlog will be fast tracked in any way, although you never know.”

    FM – Do you think the HO will hang on in the hope that conditions will change? (Silly question I know)

  8. I believe myself to be ranking highly on the “poor-timing” lists. I received a refusal letter ON the day of RN(19/11), presumably my claim was dealt with under HS? I’ve just launched my appeal and I’m hopeful this will fall under RN, is this the case?
    The reason for refusal was that I’m not high profile enough to be considered as being at risk on return. The HO accept that I am a member of the MDC with a letter from the secretary general of the party amongst other evidence(s). Is it reasonable for me to assume that under RN I would therefore qualify for Refugee Status?

  9. Onski, that does sound like unfortunate timing. No personal advice can be given here, but I think this post and the last one are fairly clear about someone in your position.

  10. Many thanks, London HOPO. My sources are normally pretty good, but this is the first I’ve heard of it. Short post to follow shortly.

  11. Is it official then…? Is it? Or shall we hold our breath until the fat lady sings at 23:59:59?

  12. I applied for asylum 7 years ago and I have to report every month I appealed against the home office decesion and up to now nothing has been done. I instructed my lawyer to write to the immigration a couple of months ago and I received 2 correspondances from two different case workers saying they would look into it. I havent got a GP and when a secreatary from the GP office rang the immigration to ask about my status she was told that the only reason why I was still in the counrty was because deportations to Zimbabwe had stopped. I was angry so I instructed my lawyer to ask the immigration how they had come to this without us having gone to court but hey could not answer him. In 4 months time I would have stayed in this country for 14 years and I am seriously thinking of applying for the 14 year stay. I have a criminal conviction cause I drove a car without a licence although this could be argued in court that they is no way that I can get a licence without a passport or proper immigration papers.