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Deportation (Zimbabwe)

Volume 447: debated on Monday 19 June 2006

The situation remains as set out by the then Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality, now the Minister for Policing, Security and Community Safety, on 20 April 2006. We are not enforcing returns to Zimbabwe pending a further hearing listed by the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal from 3 to 7 July.

While sex offenders are released and remain untraceable, one of my constituents, Ashleigh McMaster, is stuck in an asylum limbo. Her mother has been attacked and stabbed and her step-father has been hospitalised in Zimbabwe in the past year. Yet this young woman, whose grandfather served in the Royal Air Force for 20 years, and whose father enjoys British citizenship and lives in my constituency, faces the prospect of deportation. I have already asked to have a meeting with the Minister. Will he now agree to meet me to discuss the case of Ashleigh McMaster?

As I have said, I cannot comment on individual cases, but I would be happy to meet the hon. Gentleman. As he knows from correspondence with my ministerial colleague, fresh evidence was submitted by the applicant, which entailed a further review of the case details.

The Minister will be aware of the limbo in which many Zimbabwe asylum seekers live in this country. Zimbabwean asylum seekers will want to return some day to restore Zimbabwe to democracy. As our friends, why are we not treating them as we treated people from South Africa? Why are we not allowing them to work? Many of them are well qualified and, in the meantime, they could contribute a huge amount to this country. Why are we not allowing them to work in this country, to contribute to it and to prepare themselves to go back to a new Zimbabwe?

An important court case is pending that will, I think, change the context in which they are treated. As my hon. Friend knows, it is a valuable privilege to be able to work in this country. We think that it would be wrong to let certain people jump to the head of the queue. A related question has been asked about accessibility to benefits. As my hon. Friend knows, the rights of such applicants are set out clearly in section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999.

As long ago as November last year we were told that the inquiry into alleged fraud through the ancestral visa route from Zimbabwe was completed. Will the Minister tell me why constituents such as mine, the Mitchell family, have been held in limbo now for more than two years? Those people suffered greatly in Zimbabwe and they just want to get on with their lives. Their parents hold a British passport. It cannot be that complicated for the Minister’s Department to process this case, and many more like it.

As the hon. Gentleman knows, some applications were the subject of extensive fraud. It was important and absolutely right that the immigration and nationality directorate undertook extensive inquiries so that it might make the right decisions. If there are specific cases that the hon. Gentleman is concerned about, we will be happy to correspond with him further about them.

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is not just a matter of policy, it is also a matter of process? He alluded to the statement made by the Home Secretary that he regarded the Home Office as being unfit for purpose. Will he guarantee the resources necessary to ensure that cases to do with people from Zimbabwe, and the other cases at the IND, are dealt with speedily and efficiently so that people can get results, and also that no bonuses will be paid to the senior management of IND until those cases have been cleared?

I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s advice on human resources policy at IND, and I will take his thoughts into account in the weeks and months ahead. At this stage, I do not have anything to add, either to my own evidence to the Select Committee on Home Affairs or, indeed, to the evidence of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, but the point is well taken.

I call David Davis. [Interruption.] It appears that he does not wish to ask a question, so I call Julian Brazier.

While strongly sympathising with earlier comments by colleagues from all parts of the House, may I raise again the case of Sungaradazzo Mudgyiwa, who is not an asylum seeker but a straightforward illegal entrant from Zimbabwe? She was sent to prison for four and a half years for stealing more than £100,000 from the benefits system and more than £12,000 from the Post Office, but she is still resident in Whitstable and occupies a council house with her teenaged sons, one of whom has recently been served with an antisocial behaviour order for violence and intimidation. Once that case has been heard, will action be taken on deportation?

We made it clear in our evidence to the Home Affairs Committee that enforcement and removals are a critical part of IND business that need to be strengthened. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me for reserving my position on individual cases and not commenting but, again, if he would like me to update him on specific details, I am happy to do so.