Monday, July 18, 2005

From the United Network of Detained Zimbabweans in UK

Zimbabwean hunger strikers appeal for solidarity

We are appealing for your support for the 140 Zimbabweans who have been held in detention centres across the country and, in particular, the 115 who have been on hunger strike since 22nd June in protest against their planned deportation to Zimbabwe. All of the detainees and hunger strikers are black Zimbabweans. Four hunger strikers have become so seriously ill through lack of food that they have been removed to hospital.

All of the hunger strikers are opponents of the Mugabe regime. The danger of imprisonment, beatings, rape and torture for anyone who has sought asylum in the UK is well documented and hunger strikers would rather face death than return. The Home Office say there is no evidence of “systematic abuse” in Zimbabwe, but there is no free press operating and foreign journalists are banned who can verify the reports of deportees being sent to Goromonzi prison from which accounts of torture are emerging. The Archbishop of Bulawayo, Pius Ncube, has warned Tony Blair Zimbabweans face ‘certain death’ if returned.

The situation is especially dangerous at present and makes any kind of safety or life impossible on return. Operation “clear out trash” has made over one million homeless, and involved mass arrests and imprisonment on compulsory work farms - yet the Home Office continues to attempt deportations. We believe that the basic right to seek asylum from persecution needs to be upheld and that the hunger strikers need your solidarity and support. Among the detainees are teachers, an airline pilot, a Cambridge PhD student and an international footballer. All of them could contribute and enrich UK society if allowed to remain here in safety.

Noble Sibanda, the hunger strike spokesperson, says “these people will die if they’re sent back to lawless Zimbabwe. We have several stories of returnees who have disappeared or are being interrogated in prison and are accused of being British mercenaries. The British government should listen to the EU, which has called for the suspension of all removals at the present time. If Tony Blair really cares about Africa and Africans he should stop deporting Zimbabweans now. All we are asking for is the basic right to seek asylum”.

The hunger strikes are temporarily suspended as they have won a high court hearing on 4th August. But we will continue to strike until death after that date.

What you can do to help:

The campaign urgently needs funds. Make cheques payable to: The Committee to Defend Asylum Seekers (Please include a covering note indicating that the donation is for the United Network of Detained Zimbabweans. Cheques should be sent to the postal address given below)

 Twin your union branch, faith group or community group with a detainee. Contact the campaign to get the details of one of the hunger strikers you can support with letters etc

 Come to the ‘Solidarity Gathering’ at the High Court (Strand, London) hearing on the morning of 4th August. Supporters will be undertaking a hunger strike from Wednesday 3rd August outside the High Court. Contact the campaign for details.

 Attend the campaign press conference on Thursday 21 August in Committee Room 8 of the House of Commons, 6.00-8.00pm


Isaiah Bizabani, Edward Kambarami and Noble Sibanda (UNDZ Coordinators)
Phone: (44)07904132448; 07865072926; or 07910974647
Post: United Network of Detained Zimbabweans c/o Committee to Defend
Asylum Seekers, BCM Box 4289, London, WC1X 3XX

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