Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Zimbabwe ‘mistreating’ migrants

July 28,  2010

Zimbabwe 'mistreating' migrants

Zimbabwe's president Robert Mugabe. Photo/Reuters
Zimbabwe's president Robert Mugabe. Photo/Reuters 
Posted Tuesday, July 27 2010 at 20:09
Asylum seekers from several African countries seeking refugee in Zimbabwe have complained that they are being thrown into jails with hardened criminals.
The prisoners from countries such as Zambia, Somalia, Ethiopia and Rwanda were last week given an opportunity to air their views at one of Harare's most notorious prisons during a familiarisation tour by the Deputy Minister of Justice, Obert Gutu.
A refugee who did not give his name but comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo said he was arrested two years ago while on his way to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNCHR)  and has been languishing in jail ever since.
"The first time I went to the courts there was a language barrier since in DRC we speak French.
"I could not understand a word of English and I was told to come back some other time," he said.
 When he appeared in court for the second time he was fined US$100 for violating the country's immigration laws but he remains in jail even after a Good Samaritan paid the fine on his behalf.
"I am running away from war and wish to be taken to the refugee camp, I have no relatives in Zimbabwe and I have no money. I wonder why I am being kept here," he said.
The prison officials could not give an indication of the number of asylum seekers in jail but Gutu said he was aware that the immigration department was handling some cases. Other prisoners who spoke were from Zambia, Somalia and Ethiopia who said they did not understand why they were being kept in  jail instead of refugee camps.
UNCHR representative to Zimbabwe Marcelin Hepie said recently they handled a case of six Somalis who have since been released. "We do handle similar cases during our routine visits," he said. "The largest group was that of six Somalis who have since been released."
Although according to the UNCHR figures released last month, Zimbabweans topped the list of people seeking asylum last year, hundreds of refugees from across Africa arrived in the impoverished country