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Home Office invites Zimbabwean officials to interrogate asylum seekers



Marian Machekanyanga

The Home Office has been inviting Zimbabwean government representatives to interview asylum seekers who have fled political persecution in the country, in what has been branded a “corrupt” exercise.

The Independent has learned that at least seven Zimbabwean nationals, some of whom have lived in Britain for more than a decade, were last week ordered to attend meetings at a Home Office building in Sheffield, where they were asked “distressing” questions by an embassy official from their country.

The same process is said to be taking place in other parts of the UK.

The move is believed to be part of an agreement between the two governments that Britain would “repatriate” at least 2,500 failed asylum seekers to Zimbabwe providing that officials from the country could “vet” them beforehand.

The Home Office confirmed that a “redocumentation interview” took place in Sheffield on 4 December, and did not deny allegations that it was part of an agreement between the UK government and Zimbabwe to deport 2,500 people.

One Zimbabwean national who was asked to attend one of these meetings, a woman who fled political persecution in her country in 2002 after campaigning against president Robert Mugabe’s government, said she was frightened when she saw a Zimbabwean official in the room.

Marian Machekanyanga, 54, who has been in the UK for 16 years, said: “The man had my file on the table. He started speaking to me in my native language. I asked him if I could call my solicitor and he said ‘no’. He said the Home Office had asked him to interview us.

“I was really frightened. Why is the Home Office giving my details to the government I ran away from? I know they will still be after me. Anyone who has claimed asylum in England is an enemy to the government.

“I know I will be in danger if I go back. Just because Mugabe is not in power doesn’t mean the government has changed. The same government is still in control. I don’t think I would see my family.

I would get to the airport and they would take me to torture me, kill me, who knows.”

Ms Machekanyanga was forced to leave her children in the care of her sister when she fled to the UK.

She had been part of a workers’ trade union and led protests against corrupt use of government funds and said she had to flee when the authorities began to “victimise” those involved.

She did not claim asylum on arrival because she hoped the situation would change in Zimbabwe and she would be able to return. As a result of her delayed application, when she did apply for asylum seven years later, it was immediately refused.

“What is going to happen to my children and other relatives in Zimbabwe now? I’m very scared about what they will do,” Ms Machekanyanga said.

Another Zimbabwean asylum seeker who was interviewed, a man in his 50s who did not want to be named, has been in Britain for 15 years. He said he was “highly suspicious” when he saw the Zimbabwean official.

The man, who initially came to the UK on a student visa in 2003 and then sought asylum after a warrant was issued for his arrest in Zimbabwe due to blog posts he wrote against the government, said the person interviewing him was “representing Zimbabwe in conjunction with the Home Office”.

“He was asking for more information about myself to confirm my identity. He wanted to know about my parents and relatives in Zimbabwe,” the man added.

“I refused to give him information about myself. I was afraid – if they confirmed it was me, what would they do with that information? He wasn’t even concerned about whether I was an asylum seeker.”

The man, whose asylum claim was rejected by the Home Office, said he would “surely be a target” if he were removed to his home country.

“I know why they want to help the UK remove asylum seekers. They want to legitimise the current government and be readmitted to the Commonwealth and get foreign investment.

They’ve been approached by the British government and have promised to help them,” he said.

“I’m afraid of being returned. I would be really exposed and at risk. I can’t even imagine it. I’ve written blogs in opposition to the recently conducted elections. I’ve opposed the way the elections were conducted. This is published information and I would surely be a target.”

Stuart Crosthwaite, secretary of the South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group (Symaag), said a similar process was taking place in other parts of the UK.

He added: “This is ugly and upsetting to witness, let alone go through as an actual asylum seeker. A representative of the Zimbabwean government is the last person in the world they want to meet.

“The former ambassador made it quite clear in February that they wanted to deport 2,500 ‘illegal asylum seekers’ and people speculate about the reasons for that, which are obviously to cosy up to the UK and help them get figures down.

“It could also relate to trade deals in the future post-Brexit. Zimbabwe wants to come back into the Commonwealth, so maybe it’s ‘be good and we’ll let you have that status’. It’s corrupt and it’s treating people like their bargaining chips.”

It was widely reported by the Zimbabwean media in February that the then British ambassador to Zimbabwe, Catriona Laing, had told Kembo Mohadi, Zimbabwe’s deputy president, that the UK intended to deport illegal Zimbabweans to the country.

Mr Mohadi reportedly responded by saying the Zimbabwean government had no problem taking back its nationals but it needed to check them to ensure they were truly Zimbabweans.

He was quoted as saying: “They are standing at about 2,500 for the time being. We said we would want to vet them before they leave the UK.

We want to know whether or not they are Zimbabweans or if they are not fugitives who had run away from justice.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “A routine redocumentation interview event took place in Sheffield on Tuesday 4 December.”



Chris Cash: The UK Parliamentary Researcher Accused of Spying for Beijing Authorities




In March of this year, a British parliamentary researcher was arrested on suspicion of being a Chinese spy. The researcher, Chris Cash, was revealed to be a 28-year-old history graduate with links to many Tory MPs. He had been seen associating with senior Tories such as security minister Tom Tugendhat and Foreign Affairs Committee chair Alicia Kearns. Cash was believed to have been recruited as a sleeper agent while living and working in China and sent back to the UK to infiltrate political networks critical of the Beijing regime.

Cash was the leader of the China Research Group, a body advocating for a more hawkish British policy towards China. Co-founded by Tory ministers Tom Tugendhat and Neil O’Brien in April 2020, the group focused on industrial, technological, and foreign policy issues. The group’s website claimed that it aimed to provide informed knowledge on China and promote debate and fresh thinking about how Britain should respond to the rise of China.

Chris Cash was arrested in Edinburgh and released on bail until early October, along with another suspect. It is unclear how much access Cash had to foreign affairs intelligence or what kind of influence he may have held in Westminster. While he held a parliamentary pass, he did not have security clearance.

China has denied all accusations of involvement in an espionage scheme involving Cash, calling them malicious slander.

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Pope Sends Prayers to Comfort Morocco Earthquake Victims as Death Toll Surpasses 2,000



Pope Francis Morocco

On Sunday, Pope Francis expressed his prayers and support for the victims of the powerful earthquake that hit Morocco, resulting in the highest number of fatalities in over 60 years. During his Angelus message, he prayed for those injured and those who lost their lives, along with their families.

The Pope also expressed his gratitude towards the rescue workers who are working tirelessly to help the victims. He concluded by saying that they stand in solidarity with the people of Morocco during this difficult time.

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African Union’s Inclusion in G20: A Significant Acknowledgment of a Continent with 1 Billion Inhabitants




The world’s most powerful economies, the G20, have welcomed the African Union (AU) as a permanent member, recognising Africa’s more than 50 countries as important players on the global stage. US President Joe Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi both expressed support for the AU’s permanent membership.

The AU has advocated for full membership for seven years and, until now, South Africa was the only African country in the G20. The AU represents a continent with a young population of 1.3 billion, which is set to double by 2050 and make up a quarter of the world’s population.

Africa’s 55 member states have long pushed for meaningful roles in global bodies, including the United Nations Security Council, and want reforms to the global financial system. The continent is increasingly attracting investment and political interest from global powers like China, Russia, Gulf nations, Turkey, Israel, and Iran. African leaders are challenging the framing of the continent as passive victim and want to be brokers instead.

They seek fairer treatment by financial institutions, delivery of rich countries’ long-promised $100 billion a year in climate financing for developing nations, and a global tax on fossil fuels. The AU’s full G20 membership will enable it to represent a continent that’s home to the world’s largest free trade area and abundant resources needed to combat climate change. The African continent has 60% of the world’s renewable energy assets and over 30% of the minerals key to renewable and low-carbon technologies.

African leaders want more industrial development closer to home to benefit their economies. Finding a common position among the AU’s member states, from economic powers to some of the world’s poorest nations, can be challenging, but Africa will need to speak with one voice to influence G20 decision-making. African leaders have shown their willingness to take collective action, as seen during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a high-profile G20 member, Africa’s demands will be harder to ignore.

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