Zimbabwean asylum seekers in the UK have been granted a reprieve against being sent back home, after an appeals court quashed a test case that dictated Zim asylum applications.
Last year the UK's most senior immigration judge ruled it was safe to start deporting people back to some parts of Zimbabwe, prompting serious concern for the safety of many Zimbabweans in the UK.
Justice Blake from the Immigration and Asylum Chamber (IAC) announced a revised formal guideline for sending people back to Zimbabwe in a case dubbed the 'EM case' last March. The guidelines were based on a legal review of the IAC's findings from a country guidance case done in Zimbabwe in 2008, dubbed the 'RN case'.
The original findings in 2008 showed that it was still not safe for the thousands of Zimbabweans in the UK who opposed Robert Mugabe's regime, to be sent back home. Those findings outlined a number of risk categories that Zimbabwean asylum seekers in the UK could fall under.
But the 'EM case' made it much harder for Zimbabweans to be granted asylum on the basis on perceived political persecution, with the risk categories being "significantly narrowed." This included the Matabeleland province being declared "safe", while anyone without a high profile MDC presence was also considered "not at risk."
But the British appeals court this Monday sent the 'EM case' back to a lower Tribunal for a full review, after finding technical faults with the judgement.
Taffi Nyawanza, an immigration solicitor in the UK, told SW Radio Africa that this grants Zimbabwean asylum seekers in the UK a reprieve and it is a success in those terms.
"This means we are now back under 'RN case' standards, and that simply states that if you can prove you are not pro-ZANU PF then your (asylum) application should be successful," Nyawanza said.
He warned that the 'EM case' was only dismissed on a technicality and not on the real merits of the situation in Zimbabwe, and the UK Home Office was likely to continue to argue that there have been enough significant changes in Zimbabwe to warrant returns.
"My prediction is that the case will be back in court in August or September and by then we will be closer to an election in Zimbabwe. I suspect that the nearer we get to the election, the easier it will be to show there is a real risk for returnees," Nyawanza said.