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Zimbabwe hunger striker in court over deportation

08:47Sunday 03 July 2005

The row over deportations to Zimbabwe goes to court this week as hunger strikers enter their 12th day without food.

At least 50 Zimbabweans detained around the country are protesting against the lifting of a ban which prevented them being forcibly removed.

A Home Office spokesman said that 42 of those were refusing food at noon yesterday but the United Network for Detained Zimbabweans in the UK claim the figure is nearer 100.

A High Court judge, Mr Justice McCombe, on Saturday night issued an injunction preventing one hunger striker being sent home an hour before her flight was due to leave.

Her lawyers will tomorrow apply for a judicial review of her planned deportation.

Meanwhile, up to 50 Zimbabweans are making a mass bail application aimed at freeing them while the dispute continues.

The Government is resisting calls from opposition and church leaders to reinstate the ban which until November prevented anyone being returned to Zimbabwe against their will.

It had been reported that an unofficial ban was in place until after the G8 summit.

Kate Hoey MP described the deportation attempt as a “shameful act” and added: “To do it on the same day they support something like the Live 8 concert shows outrageous hypocrisy”.

The 26-year-old Zimbabwean, who does not wish to be named, claims her father, a manager on a white-owned farm, was killed in 2000 by supporters of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and that her two brothers have since been beaten to death.

Solicitor Jovanka Savic said they would be applying in the High Court for a judicial review of her case. The Home Office would then have 21 days – or seven days if the judge chose to expedite the case – to reply.

Her client said she was taken from Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre, near Bedford, to Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre, near Heathrow, where she was being held alone.

Sympathisers staged a peaceful protest in her room at Yarl’s Wood when the removal was due to take place. She said: “The girls came in my room yesterday and wouldn’t let me go.

“The immigration came for me but I wouldn’t go so they came back with officers in riot gear. Then they brought me here. I am still on hunger strike and I am feeling very weak.”

Both her MP, John Austin (Labour, Erith and Thamesmead), and the MP for Yarl’s Wood, Alistair Burt (Conservative, North East Bedfordshire), lobbied the Home Office on her behalf.

There were no further deportations to Zimbabwe due, a Home Office spokeswoman confirmed.

Meanwhile, up to 50 Zimbabwean have applied for bail said Sarah Cutler, policy and research officer for Bail for Immigration Detainees.

Recent moves in Zimbabwe to demolish informal settlements, criticised as an attempt to remove opponents of the Mugabe regime, has left 275,000 people homeless, according to the UN. The move has drawn condemnation from the Foreign Office.