Number of Zim asylum seekers drop: UK

by Own Corespondent

HARARE -- The number of Zimbabweans seeking political asylum in the UK last year sharply dropped to slightly more than 400 people down from more than 1500 in 2008, official figures from the British home office showed.

According to the figures obtained from the National Statistics, only 405 Zimbabweans applied for asylum in the UK last year down from 1 560 in 2008.

The Home Office data did not show or say what caused the decline in the number of Zimbabweans wishing to apply for asylum.

Zimbabwe has close cultural and economic ties with its former colonial ruler despite severely strained political relations.

The UK is arguably the most popular destination outside Africa of the more than three million Zimbabweans who have fled their home country in the last 10 years because of a political crisis and economic turmoil blamed on veteran President Robert Mugabe's controversial rule.

Mugabe's unity government with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has been able to stabilise Zimbabwe's economy and end inflation that once hit 500 billion percent at the height of the country's economic meltdown two years ago.

But unending bickering between Mugabe's ZANU PF party and Tsvangirai's MDC plus the coalition government's inability to win financial support from rich Western nations have held back efforts to rebuild the economy - and left many Zimbabweans reluctant to commit their future to their country and instead looking to seek opportunities in foreign lands.