Peter is a young man from Zimbabwe. A victim of the country’s economic crisis, he was forced to try and make a living by illegally panning for gold. He was not interested in politics, but his four childhood friends were all members of the MDC. As a result, he was suspected of supporting the MDC as well. In Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, mere suspicion is enough to lead to serious mistreatment. The police arrested Peter’s four friends and came to his house to arrest him too. He managed to escape and fled the country to South Africa. He then travelled to the UK using a false South African passport. When he arrived at Manchester Airport he applied for asylum. Instead of having his asylum claim dealt with, he was arrested for using a false passport and charged with a criminal offence. His criminal solicitors wrongly advised him that he should plead guilty and he was sentenced to 12 months in prison. In fact, Peter had a defence – people seeking asylum are not supposed to be punished for coming to the UK illegally, as they have no other way of getting here.
At the end of Peter’s prison sentence, the Home Office decided to deport him to Zimbabwe despite the risk of serious mistreatment that he faced there, and detained him in a detention centre. While still in prison Peter asked GMIAU for help. We made an application to the court for him to be released on bail, and this application was granted. Peter was finally released after nearly 7 months in prison, in the country that he had come to as a safe haven. However, his problems were not over, as the Home Office still intended to deport him to Zimbabwe. With the help of GMIAU, Peter appealed against the decision to deport him to Zimbabwe. We represented him at the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal and his appeal was successful. He will now be granted refugee status.