Zambian authorities deport top Zimbabwe opposition figure Tendai Biti in defiance of a court order.

They have defied the court order to allow him to seek asylum he has been handed over to the Zimbabwean police,” lawyer Gilbert Phiri told AFP.

Zambian authorities swiftly refused him asylum, but Phiri said Biti’s legal team had managed to challenge the decision, keeping him there. But authorities have now ignored the ruling and deported him back to Zimbabwe, Phiri said.

“He is on the Zimbabwe side,” Phiri confirmed. “This is really embarrassing.”

“I am saddened obviously if that is the case. Zambia can certainly do better than that,”

UNHCR released a statement regarding Biti being deported back to Zimbabwe by Zambia. It reads as follows:

“UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is gravely concerned about reports of the forced return of a Zimbabwean asylum-seeker by Zambia to his country of origin.

“A senior Zimbabwean politician expressed the intention to seek asylum in Zambia at the border yesterday. It is reported that the authorities handed him over to his country of origin today despite a court order to the contrary.

“Refoulement or forcibly returning refugees and asylum-seekers to their country of origin is a serious violation of international refugee law. UNHCR calls on Zambia to investigate this reported incident urgently.”

Zambian Information Minister Dora Siliya has confirmed that former Zimbabwean Finance Minister Tendai Biti has been handed back to the Zimbabwean authorities.

“Mr Tendai Biti presented himself to the Zambian authorities at the border in Chirundu and unlike any other Zimbabwean entering Zambia, he presented himself seeking asylum. He was held at the border following consultations with government and after the conclusion of consultations particularly with the Ministry of Home Affairs it was deduced that he did not qualify for asylum,” Siliya said.

“One can only seek asylum if their country of origin is under massive violence and there is total breakdown of law and order and indeed the lives of citizens there are threatened. In this case, it was concluded that did not apply to Mr Tendai Biti and has been handed back to the Zimbabwean authorities and not deported because he was not in Zambia illegally, he had been denied entry into Zambia. He was being held at the border pending consultations

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