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Elderly, poor Britons in Zimbabwe offered resettlement to UK

By Adriana Stuijt     Feb 18, 2009 in Politics
The UK embassy in Harare, Zimbabwe is offering free travel assistance to Britain, accommodation, welfare and health support for frail, elderly Britons in Zimbabwe, German news agency Deutsche Presse Agentur reports. They would fly out within 3 months.
The resettlement offer to fly them back to the UK on a mercy flight -- within three months -- is made to protect these frail elderly Britons from the worsening political and economic conditions. Zimbabwe has now sunk into its deepest point in history -- with an economic crisis characterised by world record hyperinflation, the closure of state hospitals, constant power and water cuts, a cholera epidemic and national famine.
Methodist bishop Paul Verryn of Johannesburg, who houses many Zimbabwean refugees in his Johannesburg church building, describes the situation in Zimbabwe as a 'slow genocide'. see
DPA reports that there also is the continuing uncertainty over the the new power-sharing government between long-time president Robert Mugabe and pro-democracy leader Morgan Tsvangirai.see
The 15-page embassy document, entitled "Resettling in the United Kingdom: Information for Potential Applicants," a copy of which was obtained by DPA says elderly Britons who qualify would also receive financial support from the social benefit system and free health care from the National Health Service in the UK. Applicants have to be at least 70, resident in Zimbabwe for at least five years and with insufficient "independent means" that they could survive on in Britain. see
These British pensioners are living a very precarious existance right now, says one Zimbabwean resident who cares for them on a daily basis, Mrs Margaret Kriel of Bulawayo, see who has been keeping many of this frail elderly British pensioners alive by running a one-woman rescue action, fetching food supplies from South Africa on a monthly run through the Beit bridge border post -- and begging for food and money on her website, Bulawayo Morning Mirror.see also see her latest news letter here
She wrote recently that at the Government Geriatric Nursing Home in Bulawayo, there are only about twenty frail British residents left on the Bartley block ward - but "there are hundreds of elderly folk in Bulaway 'who could with a clean but shabby bed at Barkley Block." Others also live at the Edith Duly Nursing Home - which Margaret also keeps supplied with monthly food donations and, which she fetches from South Africans just south of the border.
And white Zimbabwean farmers whose farms were expropriated by the Mugabe-regime have also stepped in to help these frail pensioners: teaching many how to raise survival food in their backyards.
Is it appropriate to remain in the country?
The German news agency writes that the British government is "concerned" that elderly citizens in Zimbabwe "may find it difficult to leave at short notice should the situation deteriorate further", according to the document. It advises that though the British government is "not currently advising people to leave Zimbabwe, we do think it is prudent for individuals to consider their own circumstances and whether it is appropriate for them to remain in the country".
The British Foreign Office's current travel advice for Zimbabwe warns that "the situation remains unpredictable, and incidents of violence across the country continue".
Within three months:
UK diplomats said that the number of people fitting into the category for resettlement "probably aren't more than a few hundred". The document says that British authorities would aim at arranging for their travel to Britain "within three months" and that authorities would try to settle groups of ex-Zimbabweans within reach of each other after their mercy flight back home.
"I really don't want to go, I've been here 46 years and Zimbabwe is my home," a 74-year-old World War II veteran officer told DPA. "A lot of people are thinking we should spin it out here, though we are all worried whether the government of national unity is going to work." see our previous story here
"The main reason for going would be because I would not be able to afford health care here as I get older, it's all charged in US dollars now. I am thinking about it. But I really don't know if I could cope with the awful weather," he said. see
More about Tsvangirai, Mugabe, Zimbabwe, Frail british pensioners, Mercy flights
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