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Tuesday, February 28, 2017
Thousands in call for Zimbabweans in UK to be allowed to work
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¬†Thousands of Zimbabwean exiles in the UK will take to the streets around Parliament this Friday lunchtime as church leaders and MPs call on the Home Office to allow them to work and acquire new skills. The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, will join MPs from all parties and leading refugee organisations in asking the Home Office for a two-year discretionary leave to remain for Zimbabweans resident in the UK, as well as job placement and training. Apart from Dr Sentamu, speakers will include Kate Hoey MP, chairman of the All-Parliamentary Group on Zimbabwe, the trade unionist Jack Dromey, and Zimbabwean community leaders. Under present laws, asylum-seekers are not allowed to work or even volunteer unless they have been granted refugee status. The Strangers Into Citizens rally ≠ which follows a service for Zimbabwe at St Margaret's Church, opposite the Houses of Parliament, led by Dr Sentamu, and with prayers and music by the Zimbabwean community ≠ is organised by London Citizens, the capital's largest alliance of civic organisations. It follows a call by the Independent Asylum Commission -- which has been conducting a two-year nationwide citizens' review of Britain's asylum system -- for refused asylum seekers unable to return to their countries to be allowed to work. Strangers Into Citizens is a campaign by the Citizen Organising Foundation (which includes London Citizens) calling for a pathway into citizenship for long-term undocumented migrants in the UK. In May 2007, the campaign organised a rally in Trafalgar Square at which faith leaders, politicians and trade unionists supported the proposal for a one-off 'regularisation' of the UK's long-term undocumented. Friday's rally ≠ 'Free UK Zimbabweans from Limbo!' ≠ is being organised in collaboration with a variety of Zimbabwean groups in the UK, as well as Phoenix-Zimbabwe, a trust assisting Zimbabwean exiles in the UK to develop and maintain vocational skills in order to help with the reconstruction of Zimbabwe once it is safe to return home. Its chairman, Baroness Park of Monmouth, a Conservative peer, will be attending on Friday. The rally comes in the wake of revelations that the Home Office is continuing to order Zimbabwean asylum seekers to return home ≠ forcing them to choose between destitution or returning home to torture and death. Neil Jameson, London Citizens lead organiser, said: "Britain can best help Zimbabwe in its dark hour by enabling its future leaders to acquire the skills to rebuild the country when the opportunity comes. Instead, thousands of Zimbabwean exiles in the UK live in limbo ≠ demotivated and de-skilled, and prevented by law even from working as volunteers." The Service at St Margaret's church, next to Westminster Abbey, led by the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu will begin at 12 noon. At 1pm there will be speeches in Parliament Square, followed by the march to Home Office to present a petition, then along the South Bank, returning to Parliament Square by 2.30pm. Dr Sentamu said: "This is not a party political venture. It is not pro-MDC or anti-Zanu PF. Rather it is for the people of Zimbabwe, black and white, being helped by those here in Britain, white and black. We need to remember there is only one race ≠ the human race ≠ and in joining together to restore Zimbabwe, we ease the sufferings of our brothers and sisters." Baroness Shirley Williams said: "There are several thousand Zimbabweans living in the UK whose dignity and future prospects are undermined because they are banned from working. Until they are able to return to a Zimbabwe which is democratic and safe, they should be given the right to work While they are in the UK they want to work, to support themselves and their families, to pay taxes and contribute to the economy. But they are being denied this opportunity. By working while they are here their skills could be nurtured and developed so that when it is safe for them to return home they would be effective participants in the essential rebuilding of the economy and institutions of Zimbabwe." Marilyn Bonzo from Zimbabwe said: "I was targeted by Mugabe's war veterans after being accused of supporting the MDC. I did not want to leave my country and my family, but I had no choice after my life was threatened. I now live on the charity of my British friends and food that the Red Cross give me. While I am grateful for this help, there is no reason why I cannot work and support myself, which is why I want to be able to survive on my sweat and not have to be given handouts."
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