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CANADA has lifted a ten-year moratorium on deportations to Zimbabwe saying conditions in the country had improved and there was no longer a generalised risk to the civilian population.

The development, confirmed Tuesday by Immigration Minister Chris Alexander, means some 300 Zimbabweans could now be removed and sent back to Harare.

"Canada is one of the most generous countries in the world, and we have extended that generosity for over 10 years to Zimbabweans by allowing them to stay in Canada because of unsafe conditions in their country. With the temporary suspension now lifted, the uncertainty has ended," Alexander said.

The Ottawa administration said the decision followed a thorough review of conditions in the country which established that:

* Zimbabwe is not in a state of war or extreme civil strife.
* International humanitarian assistance is available.
* Displaced persons and refugees are returning to their homes.
* The U.S., Australia, the U.K. and South Africa are removing individuals to Zimbabwe.

* There are regular international flights to and from Zimbabwe.
* Advocates for refugees were shocked by the decision, citing reports by the federal government itself and international aid groups that found little progress in Zimbabwe.

"The conditions have not improved at all. For Canada to lift the suspension of removals when things remain precarious, it's a complete disregard of what's happening there," said lawyer Raoul Boulakia, president of Refugee Lawyers Association of Ontario.

A government travel advisory for Zimbabwe says, "Crime, exacerbated by a very difficult economic situation, remains a serious problem for foreign visitors and residents alike."

Affected individuals have six months to apply for permanent residency based on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, a process critics say lacks clear criteria for acceptance.

Many Zimbabweans left the country during the decade-long economic and political crisis which started in year 2000, most settling in neighbouring Botswana and South Africa while others moved to countries such as Australia, Canada, as well as the US and the UK.

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