First group of Zimbabweans to be deported from UK arrive home

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 (Photo by Tafadzwa Ufumeli/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tafadzwa Ufumeli/Getty Images)

The first group among dozens of Zimbabweans slated for deportation from Britain landed in the southern African country Thursday on a charter flight, an AFP correspondent said.

According to Harare, as many as 150 of its citizens are held in detention centres awaiting removal from the UK after being convicted of crimes.

Fourteen arrived in the Zimbabwean capital on Thursday following what the UK Home Office described in a statement as "a landmark and historic agreement to return foreign national offenders".

UK Home Secretary Priti Patel said the Zimbabweans "committed murder, rape and other despicable crimes."

ALSO READ | Zimbabwe warning sparks vaccination rush

Last-minute legal challenges against the deportations delayed the removal of many among the 50 scheduled to be on the first flight.

Tendai Biti, vice-president of Zimbabwe's main opposition party the Movement for Democratic Change Alliance, urged Britain to reconsider.

"The deportation of compatriots from the UK is sad and regrettable" he tweeted.

Zimbabwe "remains an extremely fragile & vulnerable space. Political attrition & human rights abuses are increasing," he added.

But foreign minister Fredrick Shava said the returnees would not be victimised.

"There is no reason for anyone to persecute them unless an individual had a pending case which had not been finalised in Zimbabwe," he told public broadcaster ZBC.

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