The Sunday Mail
Leroy Dzenga and Tanyaradzwa Rusike
MIGRATION is as old as humanity.
Human beings are creatures of curiosity; time and again they find themselves pursuing new uncharted habitats.
Some travel to be part of the global cosmopolitan community, some in pursuit of opportunity and others to become citizens of the world.
Zimbabweans are no different.
Today, millions of Zimbabweans call home to foreign territories.
During the years between the mid-1990s and early 2000s, scores of locals made the great trek to the United Kingdom.
Others, especially those who were working in the health sector, went on account of their skills which then were in demand, while others used phantom tales of political persecution to gain access to the island nation as political refugees.
Today the Zimbabwean Diaspora is an immense pillar of the Zimbabwean economy.
Those who, like Takwana Tyaranini (Senditoo co-founder), work hard and have gone on to build empires.
However, there are some who disparage the hospitality of their hosts.
A quick Google search of the words “Zimbabwean man arrested in the UK”, tells a sad story.
Cases of Zimbabweans involved in crimes that include murder, domestic violence and fraud top the list.
Consequently, many have landed in British prisons.
On Thursday last week, the first group of 14, among dozens of Zimbabweans slated for deportation from Britain, landed in Harare on a charter flight.
Ahead of the deportation, UK Home Secretary Priti Patel said the Zimbabweans “committed murder, rape and other despicable crimes”.
They are currently quarantining at the Zimbabwe Institute of Public Administration and Management (ZiPAM) in Darwendale.
As many as 150 citizens are expected to be deported in terms of the UK Borders Act, which provides for the deportation of all foreigners who would have received custodial sentences exceeding 12 months.
All the returnees have served prison sentences in the UK, and Zimbabwe is obliged, as the home country, to welcome them back.
Authorities say the country has been receiving deported citizens since time immemorial.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade acting spokesperson, Mr Livit Mugejo, said the number of deportees coming from the UK was just a fraction of those being received from neighbouring countries.
“There is nothing unique in the deportations,” said Mr Mugejo.
“South Africa last week deported 220 Zimbabwean citizens, including some who were released from jails.
“This category of deportees from the UK is different from voluntary returnees, who are our citizens who opt to come back home on their own.”
He said those returning involuntarily, like in this case, would have exhausted administrative and legal remedies to preserve their stay in the host country.
However, despite having to live with the painful reality of returning home forcibly with only a few personal possessions, they are not being plunged into Zimbabwean life uninsulated.
“Zimbabwe cannot refuse to accept its citizens and will welcome them back into the country.
“They will receive the necessary social psychosocial support to help them with reintegration,” added Mr Mugejo.
There are fears that some of the returning ex-convicts may be tempted to return to a life of crime.
Police said since the deportees did not commit the crimes in Zimbabwe, they will be allowed to reintegrate freely.
National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi told The Sunday Mail: “Our duty as the Zimbabwe Republic Police is to maintain law and order. We only come in if they have committed any crime. However, the issue of these deportees is being handled by relevant government Ministries.”
While the Government has extended an olive branch to the returnees, media reports from the UK say some are still mounting spirited fights against returning home.
The chartered plane, which brought the first group to Zimbabwe last week, was missing 36 people.
Reports claim that some were exhibiting Covid-19 symptoms in detention in the UK, while others tried to escape from the holding facility.
Mr Andrew Nyamayaro, a UK-based lawyer who has been helping some with court appeals against deportation, told The Sunday Mail a number of people were mounting last-ditch efforts to preserve their stay in the country.
“They were deported because they fall into the definition of Foreign National Offenders. Some may have tried to challenge their deportation and failed.
“The majority remained after making applications to the Home Office or to the court.
“Some remained for other reasons and an outbreak of Covid-19 at one of the detention centres has been mentioned,” said Mr Nyamayaro.
Many are launching desperate, if not laughable, bids to preserve their stay in Britain.
They are maliciously framing Zimbabwe as an inhabitable country where all manner of political persecution is rampant.
One deportee-in-waiting, writing under the pseudonym Pet Davies in the Independent, a British newspaper, lamented returning back home as the ‘end of their life.’
“I have a highly aggressive form of HIV,” wrote Davies.
“They had to get specialists from around the world to get a regime of medication that would work for me.
“This government is trying to tell me I can just go find another pill in Zimbabwe.”
He likened being sent back to Zimbabwe as a death sentence writing: “I’m asking for a chance to live. What is the UK really about if our government can’t even give me that?”
Social commentator Dr Rebecca Chisamba called for empathy in dealing with the returnees.
“This is the time these deportees need our help the most so we should welcome them not to discriminate against them.
“Some will say they have not been doing anything for us whilst they were still there but we should remember they were not in their country,” said Dr Chisamba.
“They had responsibilities whilst they were there. Right now is the time to support these returnees and help them so that they pick up their pieces and start afresh.”