Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) has asked Chief Immigration Officer Respect Gono to cause the release of some refugees, who were rounded up from Tongogara Refugee Camp in Chipinge by some Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) officers together with Department of Immigration officials and arbitrarily detained at Chikurubi Female Prison and at Harare Remand Prison.
When the refugees namely Christine Kwizagira, Mirelle Ruvubika, Agnes Uwizeya and Janine Niyongree and others, who are from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and Rwanda were rounded up in August 2021 after some protests at Tongogara Refugee Camps of which they were not involved in, they together with their children were advised that they were being taken to a refugee transit centre.
However, they later found themselves detained at Chikurubi Female Prison and at Harare Remand Prison without their children and without any explanation as to why they were being held at these two prisons.
In the letter addressed to Gono, ZLHR lawyers, Paidamoyo Saurombe and Tinashe Chinopfukutwa protested against the unlawful conduct of police officers and one Department of Immigration official only identified as Shonhiwa since Kwizagira, Uwizeya, Niyongree and other refugees are recognised refugees with refugee status which has not been withdrawn and are entitled to the protection accorded to refugees at law. The lawyers charged that even in the case of Ruvubika, whose application for recognition as a refugee is still pending, there is no legal basis for her detention.
Saurombe and Chinopfukutwa asked Gono to order the release of the refugees from prison and reunite them with their family members upon which they should be returned to Tongogara Refugee Camp.
The human rights lawyers said failure by Gono and the Department of Immigration to comply with their clients’ request would leave them with no option but to institute legal proceedings to secure the release of the refugees and also institute legal proceedings for damages for unlawful detention against the Department of Immigration and against Shonhiwa in his personal capacity.