HUMAN rights groups have said they fear for the lives of Zimbabwean nationals deported on a Home Office charter flight on Wednesday night.
One campaigner, who was on the phone to a deportee on board the flight, described distressing scenes in the minutes leading up to take-off, saying she could hear men screaming: “You’re killing us.”
The deportation flight went ahead from Birmingham airport to Harare, despite concerns raised about the human rights situation in Zimbabwe.
The number of men deported was unclear but some campaign groups estimated 10 people were on board.
Karen Doyle of the Movement for Justice group told the Star one of the men on board the flight had lived in Britain for more than 20 years and suffered from mental health difficulties.
She was on the phone to him as he was escorted onto the plane.
“He was terrified,” she said. “What was clear was that he was someone who struggles to comprehend things. He will absolutely struggle to survive in Zimbabwe.
“When he was on the plane I could hear a guy screaming: ‘You’re killing us!’ — there was a lot of distress on that flight.
“We may never know what happens to people on their return because the government doesn’t follow up on the people they deport.”
Black Activists Rising Against Cuts national chair Zita Holbourne, who has been campaigning to stop the flight, said the majority of men targeted for deportation had come to Britain as refugees.
“It’s disgraceful to deport people knowing their lives will be at risk in Zimbabwe and whose only family are here in the UK. Many came to the UK as children with their parents fleeing persecution.”
Ms Holbourne said several men were taken off the flight “at the last second.”
Campaigners have raised concerns about the human rights situation in Zimbabwe, where critics of the Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government have been subjected to abductions, torture, arbitrary arrests and violent assaults.
One group told the Star they knew of at least three human rights and political activists who would be in danger of persecution by Zimbabwean authorities if returned.
Bail for Immigration Detainees, which supported a number of deportees, said ahead of the flight that all of the people they had spoken to feared for their life upon return to Zimbabwe.
The Home Office said: “The government makes no apology for removing murderers, rapists and child abusers and those with no legal right to be in the UK.
“Since January 2019 we have removed over 10,017 foreign criminals.”