A young man living in Britain who spoke of his terror at being deported to a country he hasn’t lived in for 20 years has been deported.
Bruce Mpofu, 29, was put on a removal flight to Zimbabwe on the basis of a crime he committed in 2010, for which he spent 11 months in jail.
Before his deportation, Mpofu told The Independent that he did not know what would happen to him on arrival in Zimbabwe – a country he left aged nine.
His friends told the newspaper of their fears he would take his own life – warning that, with no family or support in Zimbabwe, he would struggle to cope.
Mpofu, from Bradford, is one of a number of Zimbabwean nationals whom the Home Office has rounded up and deported in recent weeks and placed in immigration detention centres.
An investigation by The Independent has revealed that many of those deported to Zimbabwe on a charter flight last month are now homeless on the streets of Harare and Bulawayo.
Charities had called on Mpofu’s flight to be halted, describing the deportations as “cruel double punishment” that “tears people away from their homes, families and communities”.
Bruce was deported to Zimbabwe last night. Usually I try not to express my opinions on here, but I am genuinely shocked.— May Bulman (@maybulman) August 26, 2021
Maybe naively, but based on prev experience, cases like his (here since children, one conviction 10yrs+ ago) are taken off the flight after legal intervention https://t.co/Kl7t1UbCyd
‘It’s not fair’
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday afternoon as immigration officers prepared to transfer him to Heathrow ahead of the flight, the 29-year-old said: “I’m feeling emotional, but I’m trying to keep my head. I’m terrified. I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Mpofu is a keen rugby player and his club, in Wibsey, raised £3,430 to pay for his legal fees. “I’ve learnt from my mistake over 10 years ago,” he said.
“If I’d been in and out of prison I might understand, but I’ve changed. It’s not fair for them to judge me on a mistake I made 10 years ago.”
His best friend, 28-year-old Daniel Priestley, said he was “heartbroken” about Mpofu’s deportation – and said he was worried he would take his own life in Zimbabwe.
“He’s like my brother,” Priestley said. “We’ve got a really strong bond. He’s a Yorkshire lad through and through. If he goes over there, I think that’s going to be it. I just know he won’t live there. He’ll do something to himself. He’s said this to me.”
Priestley added that Priti Patel’s claims that all deportees have a “history of serious and persistent offending in the UK” is an “absolute joke”.
He said: “He committed a crime when he was a kid. When he came out of prison, he changed his life around. He hasn’t committed any offence since. He’s an absolute diamond. To say he’s a threat is appalling,” he added.
“He’s brilliant, he’d do anything to help you out. If you rang him up and asked for anything, he’d be the first person knocking on your door with his big cheesy smile. He’s such a loveable lad. If you spoke to anyone in the village, they would say the same.”
Bella Sankey, director of charity Detention Action, said Home Office deportation flights were characterised by “cruelty, incompetence and chaos”.
She added: “Phone masts down preventing vital access to justice, torture survivors trying to represent themselves, children facing a lifetime in care because parents are being ripped away.”
A Home Office spokesperson told The Independent: “Foreign criminals who abuse our hospitality should be in no doubt of our determination to deport them. Since January 2019 we have removed 7,985 foreign national offenders from the UK.
“We only ever return those who we and, where applicable, the courts are satisfied do not need our protection and have no legal basis to remain in the UK.
“All people in IRCs are provided with a mobile phone and have access to landline telephones on request, fax machines, email and video calling facilities which can be used to contact legal representatives. We check the signal regularly and no issues have been recorded.”