Going back to Iraq

Following some great coverage of our report yesterday on the situation for Iraqi refugees  – most of whom are in Syria and Jordan, forced into increasingly-desperate measures from poverty  – it’s good to see that the Times is carrying a piece on the same issue today.

The plight of the Assaf family, returning to their Iraqi home in fear, isn’t unusual: many of those returning to Iraq do so out of poverty and desperation, not because they consider it safe. Amnesty researchers at the Syrian border were recently told that more people are still fleeing Iraq each day than are returning.

Governments, including our own, have focused on supposed security improvements and ‘voluntary’ returns to Iraq to justify their failure to help refugees. But Iraq is far from safe to return to. People are being killed every month and the daily lives of Iraqis are blighted by kidnappings, torture and arbitrary detention.

Against this backdrop, and ironically during Refugee Week, the UK is stepping up its programme of forcibly returning people to Iraq or making them destitute to coerce them into return. I was called today by Dashty Jamal of the International Federation of Iraqi Refugees, who told me that 30 people were removed this morning from UK immigration detention centres in handcuffs, bound for Iraq.

That Times story gives a sense of how it feels going back to a neighbourhood that you were chased out of: terrifying. People shouldn’t have to climb up on the roof of their house to check the street for gunmen before they go to the shops. But that’s the ‘safe Iraq’ to which our government is returning people.

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