UK: Asylum - Figures show Iraqis need protection and system needs support, not undermining

Despite the possibility of an imminent US/UK-led military attack on Iraq and of the prospect of very large population movements, the UK is still refusing asylum applications from northern Iraq - leaving them in limbo - while 'exploring the options for enforcing returns to northern Iraq.'

The human rights organisation also responded to the publication of the new asylum statistics by urging the government to amend recent draconian measures affecting asylum-seekers in the UK.

Meanwhile, the organisation also sought clarification of the government's commitment to the international protection of refuges in light of a recent statement by Prime Minister Tony Blair that the government intended to halve the number of those applying for asylum in the UK in six months.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

'In the shadow of possible war, the figures underscore the need for ministers to make clear their commitment to offer protection to Iraqis arriving in the UK after fleeing persecution and conflict.

'As fearful Iraqis continue to leave their country in large numbers and the threat of war looms, the UK should press neighbouring countries to guarantee to keep borders open in the event of significant population movements.

'These figures are a stark reminder of the fact that persecution and conflict are driving the search for asylum, not supposed `soft touch' factors. It is hard to see how the government can reconcile its recent target of halving asylum applications in six months with our country's role in protecting those fleeing human rights violations.

'Instead of questioning and cutting back on the basic protection available to often desperate asylum-seekers who escape from persecution to Britain, the government should be standing up for those whose lives and liberties are under threat.'

Further information is available online:

Security Council Scared to Face up to the Human Toll of Conflict in Iraq statement (11 February 2003) and Iraq background

UK: Asylum - Dismay at ill-founded remarks on refugee protection and detention press release (28 January 2003) /p>

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