The asylum seekers are protesting against plans by the British government to return them to Zimbabwe where they risk being tortured and killed on arrival by agents of President Robert Mugabe.
Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions, Tony Blair said: “We are going to the G8 to try and make the case for helping poverty in Africa. There is no doubt at all that it is harder to make the case while abuses of governance and corruption that occur in African countries.”
He said his government was aware of “the appalling cases of torture and abuse of human rights that occur on a daily basis in Zimbabwe.”
The Independent suggested Blair fears progress on Africa at the G8 summit could be hampered by events in Zimbabwe.
The British government has been accused by refugee groups; religious leaders; human rights organisations; Labour, Conservative, and Liberal Democrat MPs, of letting down Zimbabwean refugees who fled Britain in fear of persecution at home.
The head of the Catholic church in England and Wales, Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor has said: “A moratorium on returns should be observed while the international community attempts to get to grips with a fast-deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe.”
SABC News quoted Matthew Nyashanu, the MDC’s spokesman in Britain as saying the UK has set impossible standards for those who are being persecuted.
“Some of them are just know by the people who are in the surroundings and when they ran away from the despotic regime of Zimbabwe, they couldn’t amass any evidence to come and show,” Nyashanu said.
Meanwhile, back in Zimbabwe, President Mugabe told UN special envoy, Anna Tibaijuka, that the current campaign of forced evictions was a long-cherished desire.
Tibaijuka is in Zimbabwe to assess the humanitarian crisis created by the campaign which has left between 200 000 and 1.5 million Zimbabweans homeless; has destroyed over 100 000 businesses and has led to the arrest of over 30 000 people and the death of three children.
The Independent Online reports that President Mugabe said: “We had wanted to do this before the election, but we feared it would be said we were preparing the way for our own victory and affecting the position of the MDC adversely.”
Despite the presence of the UN special envoy, there has been no halt in the forced eviction of the poor.
Mike Davies, chairman of the Combined Harare Residents Association said: “Mugabe’s paramilitary police force is burning houses at Porta Farm, outside Harare, and loading its inhabitants onto trucks to remove them to holding camps.”