Zimbabweans have been scattered across the world as a result of the economic implosion of their country in recent years. There is nothing particularly unique about Zimbabweans in this regard: people have always sought better opportunities away from home, especially during times of difficulty.
It is therefore understandable that there is such horror at the UK government’s decision to soon begin returning Zimbabwean asylum seekers who it deems do not qualify for such status.
But the many who claim political asylum on the basis of a claimed fear of persecution when they seek economic opportunities leave me with very mixed feelings. I respect their desire to escape the dwindling prospects of Zimbabwe. However, to claim persecution when one has never been political, as many do, seems to me to really disrespect the efforts of those brave Zimbabweans who have put their lives on the line to bring about political change which will benefit all of us. The claim of political persecution by many who really have nothing political to fear dilutes the efforts of those few who are actually political activists.
It also ignores the fact that the political activists with the most to fear from the Mugabe regime are those who are agitating for change from Zimbabwe, not the rest of us who are outside, who would not even be noticed by anybody but our friends and families if we went back home.
I believe it is far more respectful of the brave efforts of those leading the struggle for political change from Zimbabwe for those of us outside to admit that the overwhelming majority of us are where we are for economic reasons. It is not for the dishonest, imaginary reason that we are so politically dynamic that we threaten Mugabe and would be persecuted by him on return.
For most, it would be less dishonest to get into a marriage of convenience in order to stay in the UK than to claim that they would be persecuted if they were returned home. The reality that things are very difficult in Zimbabwe is not a justification for faking political activism.