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Zimbabwe update

Zimbabwe update

map_of_zimbabweThis post falls firmly into the ‘gossip’ category and cannot be taken as reliable because it is based on my own incomplete understanding. This is also a very fast moving situation and even if I have this right today it may well be wrong tomorrow. If anyone has further information, please leave a comment and I will update this post.

I’ve been at Field House, seat of the Senior Immigration Judges, a few times since RN became public knowledge and one of my cases was a Zimbabwean one. Rather oddly the SIJ ‘reserved’ his decision, meaning he will send it to us in writing later via the Home Office, and did not announce a decision immediately or suggest to the Home Office that they grant asylum and save the hassle of having even to write a decision himself. Still, I’m optimistic we will have won that one.

However, it seems that things have moved on a little. The tribunal and courts are talking to the policy people at the Home Office (a Ms Annetts if I heard her name correctly) and the Home Office are apparently saying they will review all Zimbabwean cases awaiting reconsideration and high court decisions with a view to deciding whether they should be granted asylum under RN. Some HOPOs are reported to be conceding cases, which I took to mean undertaking to grant asylum, although I saw one today initially saying that he could not before agreeing to do so. HOPOs have also apparently been told not to apply for adjournments on the basis that RN will be appealed. It was not clear to me from this whether there is an intention to appeal RN or not.

Irrespective of whether they appeal, all this seems to point in the direction of the Home Office actually granting asylum to Zimbabweans, rather than keeping them hanging on for any longer. Whether this turns out to be true only time will tell.

If a case has been successful and the appeal process is over, the Home Office are obliged to grant refugee status and their policy is to grant five years leave to remain. If they fail to act on their obligation an application for judicial review can be made after a reasonable time. Giving them six weeks or so is probably a minimum.

At the end of the five years there is no review of risk and as long as the refugee has not committed crimes and can pass the citizenship test, he or she will get settlement. However, the Refugee Convention itself does not require a person to be given permanent settlement in a country of refuge and its benefits can be withdrawn if the situation in the country of origin changes (Article 1C of the convention). Since 2005 this has been reflected in Home Office policy: if peace does suddenly break out in a previously war torn or unstable country, a review of all cases from that country that don’t yet have settlement can be ordered, and they can have their refugee status and leave to remain removed, with a right of appeal against that decision.

I’ve always thought that this was unlikely ever to happen as the Home Office has plenty to do already without creating more work, and the cost to the Legal Services Commission in funding all these appeals (although those with jobs would probably not be eligible) would be considerable.

But… the policy exists, and if things do settle down in Zimbabwe, one of these reviews may happen.

Free Movement
The Free Movement blog was founded in 2007 by Colin Yeo, a barrister at Garden Court Chambers specialising in immigration law. The blog provides updates and commentary on immigration and asylum law by a variety of authors.

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