A new Operational Guidance Note for Zimbabwe has been published by the Home Office. These OGNs are basically central guidance to asylum decision-makers in the Home Office. They contain the Home Office policy on what categories of person from different countries might qualify for asylum.
The new Zimbabwe OGN is a rambling and repetitive document, but the rub eventually comes at 3.6.16:
“Although deplorable, a significant feature of the human rights abuses that are occurring now is that they have been for reasons other than those which led the AIT to conclude that those who were unable to demonstrate loyalty to ZANU-PF would generally be at risk. The evidence of the past six months or so therefore no longer supports the contention that Zimbabweans are at risk merely because they would be unable to show support for ZANU-PF (and there have been instances where ZANU PF supporters have been harassed or hurt, especially if perceived to have ‘betrayed’ the regime). A grant of asylum solely on this basis will not therefore usually be appropriate.”
This is a clear rejection of the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal’s central finding in RN (Returnees) Zimbabwe CG  UKAIT 00083 that all those unable to demonstrate loyalty to ZANU-PF are refugees. There are still categories that the Home Office accept may be refugees, such as political activists, human rights defenders, members of civil society, and those in sensitive professions, such as journalists and teachers.
For those new to this saga, I think this link takes you to most of the relevant old posts on this blog as well as some not so relevant ones.
How will immigration judges react? I’ve no idea. The Home Office argument is essentially that time has moved on since RN. RN is still a country guideline case, though, so it will be for the Home Office to show that it should not be followed at appeal hearings. HOPOs will need to produce country information to show that RN is now wrong and the situation has changed. Meanwhile, the tribunal will presumably line up yet another country guideline case, which is likely to take months.
What does this mean for those who have made new or fresh claims based on RN? Well, their claims will be rejected by the Home Office (unless they can show they fall into a category of person accepted by the Home Office to be at risk) and they will need to appeal. What the country and case law situation will be by the time such appeals come up, only time will tell.
What about those who are stuck in queues in the higher courts? It looks like there will be no general amnesty or similar by the Home Office and each case will just have to wait its turn. At the moment the Home Office has been offering to make new decisions but has refused to offer guarantees as to how long it will take to get a new decision. Accepting such offers now looks like an even worse idea than it already was.