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UN refugee agency ‘gravely concerned’ Biti refused asylum by Zambia

Tendai Biti is understood to be back in Zimbabwe where he is facing criminal charges relating to last week’s disputed presidential election.

FILE: Zimbabwe opposition official Tendai Biti. Picture: AFP.

HARARE - The United Nations refugee agency has slammed the Zambian government for refusing to grant top Zimbabwe opposition official Tendai Biti asylum.

Biti is understood to be back in Zimbabwe where he is facing criminal charges relating to last week’s disputed presidential election, charges the opposition say are trumped up.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) says forcibly returning asylum-seekers to their country of origin is a serious violation of international law.

It says it’s gravely concerned by reports of the forced return of a Zimbabwean asylum-seeker.

That’s a reference to Biti, who managed to get across the border to Zambia on Wednesday, where he applied for asylum, but that request was turned down.

The UNHCR said in a statement: “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.”

Biti, who’s part of Nelson Chamisa’s Movement for Democratic Change Alliance, was handed over to Zimbabwean police earlier on Thursday in defiance of a court order.

The Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition says it hopes President Cyril Ramaphosa will bring the matter to the attention of his counterpart Edgar Lungu during his visit to Zambia on Thursday.

(Edited by Thapelo Lekabe)