CAMPAIGNERS have condemned the government as "abhorrent" and fear several asylum seekers of the Zimbabwean community in Southend are at risk of deportation.

Stanford Biti, 49, who moved to Southend from Zimbabwe in 2006, has said four members of the 2000-strong community in Southend have been summoned to Southend police station today to be interviewed by Home Office officials.

The Home Office has received wide-spread criticism for working with the Zimbabwean government to accelerate the deportation of asylum seekers, whose claims have failed, despite high-profile human rights abuses in the country.

Two refused asylum seekers were detained at the Home Office’s Vulcan House building in Sheffield last week and were told they could be returned to Zimbabwe within days and Mr Biti fears the same could happen to the Southend residents, many of whom have been here for more than a decade.

He claims the charity Communities and Sanctuary Seekers Together (CAST), based in Southend, have been contacted by concerned residents who have daunting letters requesting their attendance at the police station.

Mr Biti, who is the brother of Tendai Biti - the former Zimbabwean minister of finance, said: "We've had clients come to our office in floods of tears with the letters asking them to attend for interview at Southend Police Station.

"It has come from the Reporting and Offender Management branch of the Home Office which I believe is based at Stansted Airport.

"They have been asked to bring all their documentation with them and the letter directs them to take their children out of school and bring them to the interviews.

"What we are actually saying is that it's abhorrent that the government is trying to deport Zimbabwean people to a war zone - it should not be happening."

Over the last few months, Zimbabweans across the UK have been asked to attend interviews at Home Office centres. When they attended they found Zimbabwean government officials waiting to interview them.

The Home Office were contacted for comment but did not respond by the time the Echo went to print.

However, responding to comments in the Lords, the Home Office minister Lady Williams of Trafford said: “The UK continues to call for the government of Zimbabwe to uphold the rule of law and human rights and to promote free and fair elections under the protection of the 2013 constitution and international human rights law.

“The Home Office only seeks to return those whose asylum claim has been unsuccessful. They are by definition not at risk on return. All protection claims from Zimbabwean nationals are carefully considered on their individual merits in accordance with our international obligations.”