Larger ‘bribes’ for Zimbabweans to return home

Failed asylum seekers from Zimbabwe are being offered £2,000 cash “bribes” to return home voluntarily despite the Home Office threatening to resume enforced removals.

The money is part of a resettlement package worth up to £6,000 in “in kind” assistance for any Zimbabwean who is prepared to return home of their own free will.

It is far greater than the £4,000 resettlement package, which includes £500 cash, that is offered for failed asylum seekers from other countries.

The Government stopped returning people to Zimbabwe by force three years ago because it was not considered safe to do so but Phil Woolas, the immigration minister, has announced he is considering “normalising” returns because of improvements since President Robert Mugabe agreed to power-sharing opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

More than 6,500 Zimbabweans have applied for political asylum over the last three years.

Around 925 were granted refugee status, while around 4,500 had their applications for asylum rejected.

Damian Green, the shadow immigration minister, said: “The Government will need to be more careful than it has in the past that those who take money under the voluntary return scheme do not subsequently head back to this country.

“The principle of voluntary return is fine, but in the past it has proved a route to wasting taxpayer’s money.”

Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migrationwatch, added: “It is hard to think of a better way to encourage the flow of Zimbabweans to Britain.

“This is using taxpayers’ money to make the removals numbers look better, irrespective of its long term impact.”

In a written statement to Parliament, Mr Woolas said the situation in Zimbabwe had got better in the last six months.

He said: “The British Government takes its international responsibilities seriously and we will continue to grant protection to those Zimbabweans that need it.

“The situation in Zimbabwe is improving under the Inclusive Government and we will be looking to normalise our returns policy progressively as the political situation develops.

“We will continue to provide assistance to those who choose to return voluntarily – enabling people to support themselves and rebuild Zimbabwe, which hundreds of Zimbabweans who have already safely returned voluntarily are doing.”

Gepos Bon Carolyne Ahiambo Ngara vlugtelinge in Suid-Afrika Blog