A letter to the Prime Minister (Boris Johnson), MPs, Councillors, Religious leaders, and any other community leaders who may have communities at heart.
I write this with concern about the current deportations of the Zimbabwean immigrants:
This is something that is really concerning to our communities. Something close to home. The new wave of deportation of Zimbabwean people who are alleged to have committed crimes in the country, regardless of the period they have been living in the UK, and how long ago they committed those crimes has become a thorn in our communities. The average stay for the recently deported individuals is around 20 years. They have invested most of their productive life years in UK. While none of us can condone crime, the one thing that is emotionally wrecking, is the process of the removals of these alleged criminals. This is having a collective trauma on the Zimbabwean communities. The communities are completely unsettled by this development. I am an ex-Chairman of the Zimbabwe Leeds Community, and our community have had such a difficult time recently, resulting in endless community engagement meetings about this subject for the last 3 weeks.
While the Home Office could be right to remove “undesirable elements”, who are causing problems in our society collectively (considering a greater percentage of the crimes committed have been against fellow Zimbabwean community members), this, I believe should also be done humanely, as every society has such people and the law should be applied consistently and fairly. The way these people are being removed has injected so much fear in the Zimbabwean community including children. Children who were born here, of Zimbabwean parentage are asking their parents every day, whether they are going to be removed from the country, even though they have not committed any crimes. This is because of the negative publicity that has come with these deportations, which are being done without consultations with the communities affected.
The Zimbabwean families watch Zimbabwean media, and the government of Zimbabwe has found a perfect opportunity to claim, that, UK was taking people from Zimbabwe on false asylum basis to justify human rights abuse, in order to impose sanctions on their country. The Zimbabwe Government claim that UK used economic sanctions as leverage to force the government to reverse their land reform program, which was meant to promote equality and redressing the historical economic imbalance brought by imperialism. Now the UK are deporting these people because their narrative is no longer sustainable, and desperately want to engage in bilateral relations with Zimbabwe to advance their interests.
While the Zimbabwean diaspora community in the UK welcomes the improvement of the bilateral relations between Zimbabwe and the UK, there are however, concerns in the process. From how things appear, the failed asylum seekers, and people who commit crimes are now the conditional “settlement payments” for the engagement of the two parties. I am a faithful taxpayer in the UK and would question the value of chartering a private plane for only 14 people alleged to be criminals, who were delivered in Zimbabwe on the morning of the 22nd of July 2021. How can 14 criminals have such an expensive privilege to enjoy an exclusive private flight to Zimbabwe, and arriving to an awaiting state media of Zimbabwe to glorify their arrival in the country? This clearly indicates a political podium raised to celebrate the two parties’ engagement at the expense of human life.
The people who have been deported are paraded on social media on each day in Zimbabwe, ridiculed and humiliated. Despite having served their sentences in UK for their crimes, they have suddenly found themselves having to serve new punishment terms again in Zimbabwe, in the form of rejection and being scorned each day. They can’t even be accepted by their families because of the negative publicity they have been exposed to. They also can’t be accommodated by anyone due to the stigma attached to them. Zimbabwe does not have social security in the form of financial handouts and social housing, and the only way to get accommodation is by being kept by relatives or from private landlords. No one is willing to take these deportees.
The way this process is being implemented works to defeat all the efforts we are investing in equality, diversity and inclusion strategies to make the migrant families and their descendants integrate into the UK system. It’s cementing the feeling of “second-class citizens” in the country. It’s been really heartbreaking to witness the Zimbabwean community parents living in the UK, discussing strategies to engage their children on how to make them understand, that they are not “truly British”. This is a complete endorsement of an inferiority badge on British children, who are “unfortunate” to be born of migrant black families. Most of the families are also now questioning the notion of property investment in the UK, because of the uncertainties around their stay. They rather feel that, they should invest in Zimbabwe, which is their country of origin, in case they make mistakes, just as other ordinary citizens could do, but in their case, they would face deportations. This is causing externalisation of money out of the country, which is not economically viable. It also means that children of migrant families remain in perpetual poverty, as they would never be able to inherit property in UK from their migrant parents and families.
What does this mean for the UK system and the Zimbabwean community jointly?
The genuine asylum seekers with pending cases have now stopped going to the reporting centres for signing in fear of being captured and sent back to Zimbabwe, in the same way the other ones have been deported. They abandon asylum accommodation and go underground. They then commit crimes in order to maximise income, and also to survive while trying to prepare for their lives in Zimbabwe, in anticipation of the day they get caught. Some are preferring lengthy prison sentences instead of deportations. So, we have a vicious cycle here, the solution is causing more illegal settlers and criminals within our communities. I think this a political problem than just mere immigration problem, that requires close engagement with the communities in order to reach a collective objective solution.
What should be done going forward?
There should be a systematic repatriation of the “undesirable” deportees alleged to have committed crimes in the UK, and this should be carried out in close consultation with the Zimbabwe communities and other expert stakeholders. Deporting them in a way that is going to increase their vulnerability in Zimbabwe is neither helpful to their country, themselves, and their communities both here in UK and Zimbabwe, including their close families, and their children. In all my engagements with both local authorities and the police in the past, I have stressed out that, when you take in immigrants, you have taken human beings and not products like potatoes. Our people will also make mistakes, just as yours do. There is a small section from our populations which may prove unproductive and this cannot be used to define our entire communities. It should also be borne in mind that refugees are people who already come with a whole baggage of trauma as a result of their past experiences from their countries of origin. The host country should also be prepared to put resources in place for the rehabilitation of these refugees. A greater proportion of our populations are highly productive, and their tax contributions should also be used to rehabilitate their family members who may not be so functional, just as our contributions are also used to rehabilitate your own. We want to create a seamless society, which is not defined by such terms as “us and you”, or “us and them”. The moment our communities are working to indoctrinate their children to understand and accept that, there is “us and them”, then you know we are not building a sustainable future. We fall and rise together. We are here to work with you to build a sustainable future. We understand our people and the problems they may present better, and together we can find lasting solutions.
Please help us work with our communities to restore their confidence with the system. I would be most grateful if you could take on board this advice and explore practicable ways in which we can work with you going forward, and in the meantime stop the deportations, in review of this inhumane way they are being carried out.
Politics and International Relations
Leeds School of Social Sciences
Leeds Beckett University
THINKING OF RETURNING HOME VOLUNTARILY?