Author: May Bulman
The Independent has learned that at least seven Zimbabwean nationals, some of whom have lived in Britain for more than a decade, were last week ordered to attend meetings at a Home Office building in Sheffield, where they were asked “distressing” questions by an embassy official from their country. The same process is said to be taking place in other parts of the UK.
The move is believed to be part of an agreement between the two governments that Britain would “repatriate” at least 2,500 failed asylum seekers to Zimbabwe providing that officials from the country could “vet” them beforehand.
The Home Office confirmed that a “redocumentation interview” took place in Sheffield on 4 December, and did not deny allegations that it was part of an agreement between the UK government and Zimbabwe to deport 2,500 people.
One Zimbabwean national who was asked to attend one of these meetings, a woman who fled political persecution in her country in 2002 after campaigning against president Robert Mugabe’s government, said she was frightened when she saw a Zimbabwean official in the room.
Marian Machekanyanga, 54, who has been in the UK for 16 years, said: “The man had my file on the table. He started speaking to me in my native language. I asked him if I could call my solicitor and he said ‘no’. He said the Home Office had asked him to interview us.