Kent

Lydia Werrit, 88, facing deportation to Zimbabwe

An elderly woman facing deportation back to Zimbabwe could die if she is forced to leave the UK, say her family.

Lydia Werrit, 88, went to Hythe, Kent, to live with her daughter and son-in-law eight years ago after her farm was seized by supporters of Robert Mugabe.

She has received a letter from the UK Border Agency saying she has no basis to remain in the UK and must leave immediately or face removal with force.

Her daughter said she feared her mother would not survive the flight back.

Sophie Laubscher said if she did, she would be questioned by the Mugabe regime as to why she had been out of the country for so long and what she had been doing.

'British flag'

"She is a genuine old lady... let her rest just for her last years," she added.

Ms Werrit said she had nothing to go back to in Zimbabwe, and recalled that when she was made to leave her farm she was told her throat would be cut if she returned to the property.

"We grew up under the British flag all our lives," she said.

"My late husband was in the Army and fought in the Second World War. He was in East Africa.

"We feel we are entitled to stay here with our people that will look after us."

'Degree of compassion'

Ms Werrit attends the Hythe branch of Age Concern, where a campaign against her deportation has been mounted.

It is being supported by the Conservative MP for Folkestone and Hythe, Damian Collins, who has written to the chief executive of the UK Border Agency.

He said the agency was working through a backlog of cases of people who were in the UK illegally, but that each one must be judged on its individual merit.

"In this case, I think we have to have a degree of compassion and say, 'what good does it serve to send an 88-year-old lady back on her own to Zimbabwe when she could stay here with her family?'."

In a statement, the UK Border Agency said it had "fully considered" Ms Werrit's claims of persecution in Zimbabwe and "found she was not in need of international protection".

"Ms Werrit appealed through the courts and a judge agreed with our decision."

It said she was being considered for a discretionary right to stay in the country.

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