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21 June 2022

Home Office blocks British army veteran’s appeal against deportation

Joram Nechironga served in Iraq and developed PTSD, but the government is trying to deport him.

By Samir Jeraj

The British Army veteran Joram Nechironga has had his appeal against a deportation order dismissed by the Home Office.

Nechironga, who was born in Zimbabwe, is facing deportation as a “foreign national offender”. He was convicted of drink-driving offences and an assault on a family member for which he served two years in prison until 2019.

He and his lawyers maintain that these offences were a result of untreated PTSD that developed during his time in the army. He has been rebuilding his life ever since being released from prison. He left for the UK in 2001 and the last time he visited Zimbabwe, in 2006, he was tortured as a suspected British spy on account of his army ID.

In its letter refusing his appeal, the Home Office acknowledges but underplays Nechironga’s diagnosis of PTSD: “The evidence that you provided did not indicate that your condition was at such a critical stage that it would be inhumane to remove you.”

The Home Office also claims his PTSD can be treated in Zimbabwe.

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Similarly, the letter dismisses Nechironga’s claims that he is supporting his two UK-born children, saying that he can pay child support from abroad.

The letter is dated from 14 April, however Nechironga only received the letter last week. In the text, the Home Office assures him that he “will not be forcibly removed from the UK within 72 hours of the date of service given at the end of this decision”.

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“I feel let down by the immigration [authority] and the army and the country I served and [was willing to] sacrifice my life for,” said Nechironga. He added that the process and stress has exacerbated his mental health problems, and that all his family ties are now in the UK.

[See also: Which countries host the highest number of refugees?]

Earlier this year, Nechironga, 42, was detained at Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre in west London. Only a last-minute intervention by his lawyers and his MP, Zarah Sultana, stopped him being deported. His lawyers expressed their concern about the impact of detention on Nechironga’s PTSD and the lack of appropriate mental health services in the detention centre.

He was later granted immigration bail and released from the detention centre, with the conditions that he cannot work, study or claim benefits and is monitored, including reporting to the Home Office in Solihull every Thursday. Each time he visits, Nechironga fears he will be detained and deported. 

“I am 40 years old. I spent 22 years here – how do I go back to Zimbabwe and start from scratch with nothing? I feel the only way out is to take my life as I have nothing to live for now. I have panic attacks constantly as I can’t sleep,” he said.

“This deportation would be a gross and unfair double punishment, ripping Joram away from his loved ones and exposing him to the threat of torture,” said Sultana. “Joram was scarred while serving in the British army and admits he made mistakes, but he served his time and is trying to rebuild life in Coventry.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Our priority will always be to keep our communities safe, which is why we make no apology for seeking to remove foreign criminals and since January 2019 we have removed more than 10,000.”

They added, “The New Plan for Immigration will fix the broken immigration system by expediting the removal of those who have no right to be here.”

The next step is for Nechironga’s lawyers to apply for a judicial review of the decision. The Home Office said the dating of the letter will not affect the timescale for lodging a judicial review, and that Nechironga still has three months to do this. The UK has had sanctions in place against Zimbabwe since the start of 2021 as a result of continued human rights abuses in the country.

In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123, or email jo@samaritans.org or jo@samaritans.ie. International helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.

[See also: The Rwanda plan has failed but it is more dangerous than ever]

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