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Zimbabwe Exiles Pray, March for Right to Work in Britain


The British government says it will not force Zimbabweans who have been refused asylum to return home, but they will not be allowed to work in Britain. Hundreds of Zimbabwean exiles marched in central London Friday to protest that restriction, as Tenda Maphosa reports.

Zimbabwean exiles gathered at Westminster Abbey for a special church service, joined by British supporters and the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, who has taken a strong stand against the government of Robert Mugabe. In a televised appearance last year, he cut up his clerical collar and vowed not to resume wearing it until President Mugabe is out of office.

After Friday's service, the Archbishop applauded the decision to allow failed asylum seekers to stay in Britain, but appealed to the British government to do more.

"Now the next stage of it is, if they are not going to be repatriated, and they are going to remain until there's peace back in Zimbabwe, we are saying, isn't it better, when you [have] got very well educated Zimbabweans in this country, to work and give them some conditional leave to remain, because I am sure they are better off working than going onto handouts," he said.

Zimbabwean exile Jean Munyuki was as the church service and the subsequent march. She says she fled persecution in Zimbabwe six years ago but, like many of her compatriots, has not yet been granted asylum.

"I am appealing to the British government that they can help us with papers, so we can work and support our families back home," she said.

Munyuki says she finds it contradictory that the British government has taken a hard line against a government it labels as criminal and illegitimate, and yet it denies Zimbabweans in Britain a living.

The demonstrators then marched off toward the Home Office to present Home Office Secretary Jacqui Smith with a petition for a change in government policy.

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