Protest against asylum seeker deportations to take place in Sheffield

A demonstration will take place outside the Sheffield Home Office building tomorrow morning in support of Zimbabwean asylum seekers threatened with deportation.

The action follows a series of incidents, in which Zimbabwean nationals were invited to Vulcan House for interview, only to be questioned by Zimbabwean government officials.

The Independent reported these incidents are believed to be part of an agreement that Britain would repatriate at least 2500 unsuccessful asylum seekers, on the condition they could be assessed by Zimbabwean officials.

Last week, well-known Sheffield community activist, Victor Mujakachi, became one of several interviewees who were detained in Morton Hall following his interview.

Mr Mujakachi has volunteered with ASSIST Sheffield, a charity supporting destitute asylum seekers, for several years and has been the lead volunteer at the emergency night shelter.

News of his detention sparked outrage in the community and a petition calling for his release gathered over 74,000 signatures.

John Grayling, co-Chair of South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Group (SYMAAG), and one of the key figures organising the protest, said there is a significant risk posed to asylum seekers if they are deported back to Zimbabwe.

“To deport anybody back to Zimbabwe at present is ludicrous, I mean the situation is worse than it was under Mugabe.

“The Zimbabwean government are after certain people here to get them deported to Harare, presumably then to torture and imprison them, its that bad,” he added.

Tuesday’s protest will coincide with other interviews organised for that day and protesters will urge the government to stop all deportations.

Robert Spooner, member of ASSIST Sheffield, said: “The emotional strain on asylum seekers is terrific. Some really buckle under, and become mentally ill. Some of them do recover but it’s really hard.

“We want publicity of the protest to show the government there are a lot of people very concerned about what’s happening but at the moment with this very right wing government it’s going to be really hard work.”

On Friday, ASSIST announced that Mr Mujakachi had been granted stay of deportation, meaning that he is no longer at risk of imminent deportation.

In a statement, ASSIST said: “We welcome the news that our friend and colleague Victor Mujakachi is currently safe from imminent deportation but more needs to be done to protect asylum seekers from being forcibly returned to Zimbabwe.”

The protest is due to take place at 9am on Tuesday 19 outside Vulcan House.