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Ian Pearson: I listened carefully to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary this afternoon. He seemed to be clear in saying that he wanted carefully to listen to any representations that are made to him by Members. I have no doubt that if my hon. Friend wants to make representations with regard to constituents who are in Harmsworth, my right hon. Friend will carefully consider those representations. I take on board the point that my hon. Friend makes. As he will appreciate, I do not want to comment on individual cases.
Andrew George: As the Minister has given a graphic description of the medical and humanitarian situation and of the level of repression and persecution in Zimbabwe, and bearing in mind the fact that he rightly says that he will not make comments on individual applications for asylum in this country, is he satisfied that the Home Office has fully accepted his Department's assessment of the situation in Zimbabwe? If that is the case, and he is satisfied that it has accepted that assessment, will he agree that deportation should be happening only in exceptional circumstances?
The Foreign Secretary and the Home Secretary are at one on the issue. As the Home Secretary said in his statement, "It is the position of the Foreign Secretary and myself that there are not sufficient grounds to reverse last November's decision." He went on to say that it is clear that Zimbabweans are in need of international protection, and reiterated some of the categories of people affected by that. He also said that not all Zimbabweans who claim asylum genuinely face persecution. He alluded to the fact that the blanket
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suspension of all removals to any one country can only encourage those who want to get around our controls for reasons that have nothing to do with political activity or fear of persecution. Our policy is right, but we will continue to keep the situation under review.
Peter Bottomley: The Minister is being helpful. He quotes the agreement between the Foreign Secretary and the Home Secretary, which we have to accept, but the problemI am sure that my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) would agreeis that if the situation was such that people should not be sent back in October last year, what has improved since then that makes it possible to send people back with confidence now? If there was no confidence in October, how can there possibly be confidence now? Will the Minister ensure that the Home Office, which works so closely with the Foreign Office, does not start lifting people out on Thursdays and Fridays so that it gives itself two or three clear days? Can it do it on a Tuesday so that we can raise it with the Prime Minister on a Wednesday?
I assume that the hon. Gentleman was in the Chamber for the statement and I have nothing to
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add to it. It explained Government policy clearly. I shall draw his point about removal days to the Departments concerned.
I reiterate the Government's total opposition to human rights abuses in Zimbabwe. There is no doubt that political persecution, human rights abuses and denial of basic freedoms are taking place. We will continue, both directly and with our international partners, to push the Government in Zimbabwe to end human rights abuses and to restore democracy so that all Zimbabweans can, in time, return safely to help build a prosperous and stable country. In the meantime, we will continue to provide asylum to those Zimbabweans who need our protection. We will continue to provide humanitarian assistance through NGOs and the UN to those in Zimbabwe who need it most.