Zimbabweans in UK go on hunger strike hours before deportation

SOME dozens Zimbabweans in the UK who face deportation are desperately praying that the deportation scheduled for between tonight and Wednesday morning does not go through, amid reports that some have gone on hunger strike.

More than 12,000 people have signed a petition against the British Home Office’s planned deportations, with many of the individuals forced to flee to Britain having faced persecution.

UK Home Affairs Secretary Priti Patel is under increasing pressure to halt the planned deportation. Reports say about 150 Zimbabweans face deportation after they got convicted.

Those expected to be on the flight include people who have lived in Britain for nearly their whole life, have children who are now British residents, and have not been in prison for more than a decade.

The Morning Star, a British paper, reports that concerns have also been raised about the potential effects on individuals’ health in the short term, with reports of a case of Covid-19 in one detention centre — Brook House near Heathrow Airport — where many of those served with removal orders are being held, with some currently on hunger strike.

Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (Barac), which began the widely supported petition, claims the Home Office’s plans are racist and would put the lives of those expected to be removed to Zimbabwe in jeopardy.

Zita Holbourne, founder of Barac, said: “It is disgraceful that the UK government are targeting people for deportation to Zimbabwe — most of those impacted will have had to flee Zimbabwe because they or their families faced persecution.

“If returned their lives are in danger due to how Zimbabwe perceives people who fled and left in any case.

“Many came to the UK as small children and have spent their whole adult life here.

“The only home they know is the UK — their whole families are British. They have nobody in Zimbabwe, receiving a double punishment which British-born people would not experience.”

These calls follow a letter — signed by a cross-party group of MPs — which urged Ms Patel to stop the planned flight given the “deteriorating” human rights situation in Zimbabwe.

Ms Holbourne said: “The human rights of the families are not being considered.

“We are campaigning and working with legal representatives to resist these racist deportations.”

A Home Office spokeswoman said: “Foreign criminals who abuse our hospitality should be in no doubt of our determination to deport them.

“Any foreign national who is convicted of a crime and given a prison sentence is considered for deportation at the earliest opportunity.” □

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