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Zimbabwe (Resettlement Scheme)

Volume 488: debated on Monday 23 February 2009

There are an estimated 3,000 British citizens and British nationals in Zimbabwe with the right of abode in the UK who are 70 or over or who are vulnerable because of their care needs or medical conditions.

The Government’s advice to vulnerable British people and their families has been that if they are concerned about the situation in Zimbabwe they should consider their need to remain. This advice has been unchanged since 2007 and still stands.

But the Government are concerned about older and vulnerable British people who may be increasingly unable to support themselves in Zimbabwe and who are unable to return to the UK without assistance. We recognise that a power-sharing accord has now been agreed and that Morgan Tsvangirai was sworn in as Prime Minister on 11 February. However, some British people have been badly affected by the collapse of Zimbabwean infrastructure and we cannot expect this to be put right overnight. They are facing severe difficulties getting access to the food, medicines and care they need.

The Government are therefore ready to offer assistance in resettling in the UK to those older and vulnerable British people who are unable to make their own arrangements to leave and unable to support themselves financially in Britain. The Government are making arrangements to receive, assess needs of and support those eligible British citizens and British nationals with the right of abode who wish to resettle in the UK, including through early access to benefits.

We are putting in place reception arrangements and provision for appropriate accommodation and support. The Local Government Association, ADSS housing associations, local authorities and charities are involved in discussions on practical support and funding. The costs of this programme will be met by Government.

This is a cross-Government programme, involving a number of Departments, which the Prime Minister has asked me to co-ordinate.

We are informing older and vulnerable British people in Zimbabwe of the assistance available through the British Embassy in Harare. It is difficult to anticipate the extent of interest in this offer, but we estimate that up to 750 people may wish to come to the UK over 18 months.

The British Embassy is not advising British people to leave Zimbabwe and continues to provide a full range of consular services to those who remain.