CANBERA — Australian Immigration minister Scott Morrison has said he would judge a request for asylum by Zimbabwe’s ambassador to Australia on its merits.
Jacqueline Zwambila announced her defection to Australia on Friday and is asking the Australian government for asylum.
“If or when an application for a protection visa is received it would be assessed on its merits and in accordance with the normal rules that apply in these circumstances,” Morrison said in a statement.
He said the government does not provide commentary on individual cases as it can prejudice their case or, worse, place people at risk.
“As a result, it would be inappropriate to confirm or otherwise comment on any individual application,” Morrison said.
The ambassador told Fairfax media she feared for her life and would not be returning home when her term ended on Tuesday.
Zwambila is aligned to Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change party.
She said she knew it meant the end of her term when Robert Mugabe won elections earlier this year. Mugabe finished with 61% of the vote in the election, amid claims of intimidation and tampering with electoral rolls.
The Australian government has asked the election to be rerun.
Back in Zimbabwe, a news outlet called her decision “bizarre” and a “diplomatic shocker” and quoted one unnamed political commentator who said Zwambila’s actions were tantamount to treason. Morrison said it was common for people to be granted a bridging visa if they lodged a valid application for a protection visa.
“The length of processing will depend on the individual circumstances of any case, including identity, health, security and character,” he said.
Zwambila’s migration agent in Canberra, Marion Le, told Fairfax media that protection visas were usually applied for under great secrecy, but this case was an exception.
“The last thing I’d want to do is cause diplomatic tension between one country and another, but Zwambila’s been an activist all her life and she wasn’t going to just sit down,” Le said.
— Global Times