A young man who was deported to Zimbabwe last month while living in Britain since childhood said he was unsure how he would survive in the country.
Bruce Mpofu, 29, was returned to the southern African country, which he left at the age of nine, on August 25 with six other deportees. He was returned there on the basis of a burglary offense he committed in 2010, for which he spent 11 months in prison. He did not commit any other crimes.
In an interview with The independent this week, which was repeatedly cut short due to a poor phone signal, the former Bradford resident, who now lives temporarily in Bulawayo with a cousin, said he was struggling to cope financially and that he felt in danger and alone.
“My cousin is going back to South Africa so I can’t stay here. I feel like a burden. My biggest fear right now is what am I going to do next – where am I going to go? How am I going to survive? he said.
“I can’t think clearly right now. I keep waking up thinking it’s probably a bad dream. I just wanna get out of here and come home.
He comes amid growing concern over the Home Office’s decision to resume deportations to Zimbabwe, which had been suspended for years but resumed in July after a deal was struck. between the two governments.
The independent revealed last month that men who were deported on a previous charter flight to Zimbabwe in July are now homeless on the streets of Harare and Bulawayo and live in fear of the authorities.
Experts said they were “very concerned” that the UK has taken this step given the “human rights violations” and “overwhelming evidence of” life-threatening “risks to which many deportees face their return.
Dr Hazel Cameron, an expert on Zimbabwean affairs and academic consultant to judges at asylum hearings in the UK and elsewhere, said that despite claims from the UK government that support would be available to facilitate the reintegration of deportees in Zimbabwe, this had “not materialized”.
“Knowing the backgrounds of many of those who have been deported, people absent from Zimbabwe for decades and without a support network of family or friends in the country, current conditions in Zimbabwe dictate that the majority will be left destitute. , homeless. and facing life-threatening obstacles, ”she added.
Mr Mpofu said he arrived in Zimbabwe last month with just £ 45 to his name: £ 5 he earned working at Brook House, a UK referral center, while detained there before his dismissal, and £ 40 which had been given to him by the Home Office when he was on the flight.
“The financial situation causes me a lot of stress. I mainly rely on my family and friends. I’m trying to get my ID and passport – but I need the money for that, ”he said.
The Home Office says it is funding “reintegration assistance” provided by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) for all those deported to Zimbabwe – but Mr Mpofu said he did not ‘had received no help from the organization with basic tasks such as obtaining a Zimbabwean identity document. .
He said he felt stigmatized in the country because of his strong British accent, as well as the fact that some may know he was deported from the UK, adding: “I’m on edge. I know some people might target people who have been deported and everything. My accent allows me to stand out.
The young man, who was a great rugby player and had hoped to become a plumber in the UK, hopes to take legal action against the Home Office’s decision to deport him and allow him to return to the UK . A crowdfunder was set up to raise funds for his legal fees.
He said his mental health suffered from being away from his friends and family: “I miss people every day. My anxiety and depression affect me more and more.
“I had people supporting me in the UK, but now I’m under even more stress, and it’s even more difficult because the people supporting me are no longer close to me. They are thousands of kilometers away. When I try to talk to them, it breaks down because of the bad signal. It’s painful.”
Robert Greenwood, director of rugby at the Wibsey Rugby Club, of which Mr Mpofu served for 10 years, said his expulsion had “broken his heart”, describing him as a “very good boy”.
“He was an integral part of the team. He was a good player, he always has a big smile on his face. He was brave on the pitch but never showed any sign of aggression. It’s such a pacifier, “he said. The independent.
“Off the pitch he was brilliant. He raffled almost every week, he cleaned the locker rooms. He helped me set up my garden earlier this year and he wouldn’t take a dime for it. If he doesn’t deserve to be part of my country, I don’t want to be part of it to be honest.
Mr Greenwood added: “Bruce made a mistake. What do we say about this justice system if people get out of prison rehabilitated, then they are deported 10 years later? What is the point of this? “
Charities and unions, including the TUC, have called for an end to eviction flights, describing the system as “cruel double punishment” that “tears people away from their homes” and exposes them to “persecution,” isolation and poverty “.
Zita Holbourne, co-founder and national president of Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (BARAC UK), which has set up crowdfunding and is in regular contact with Mr Mpofu, said: and dangerous.
“The number of people who know Bruce and have been involved in the campaign for his human rights is a testament to the incredible young man he is. Bruce is to be united with his family and friends in the UK.
A spokesperson for the Home Office said: “The people we abducted in the flight to Zimbabwe included serious foreign criminals. We make no apologies for deporting foreign criminals from the UK, as the UK public expects, and since January 2019 we have deported 8,441 people.
“We only remove those who do not have a legal right to stay here and when the courts are satisfied that they do not need our protection.”