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UK: Removals to Iraq put lives in danger, says Amnesty

Reacting to reports that a charter flight carrying Iraqi nationals is scheduled to leave the UK for Baghdad via Halmstad, Sweden in the early hours of 9 June, Amnesty International stressed that removals to Baghdad are not safe and should not take place.

Amnesty International opposes any forcible returns to Iraq in the current situation of ongoing insecurity and instability. Amnesty International believes that Iraqis from the five provinces of Iraq considered to be particularly dangerous, namely Ninewa (Mosul), Kirkuk, Diyala, Salah al-Din and Baghdad, should be granted refugee status or a form of subsidiary protection, and that in the case of asylum-seekers from other provinces of Iraq an individual assessment should be made to assess whether they also qualify for refugee or subsidiary protection.

Amnesty International UK refugee programme director Jan Shaw said:

“It’s unfathomable that the UK can consider Baghdad a safe place to return people. Our report in April documented scores of civilian killings, some of whom were tortured and their bodies mutilated before they were dumped in the street. Bombings continue to take scores of lives.

“As far as we are concerned, removing someone to Iraq should only take place when the security situation in the whole country has stabilised.

“Until the situation improves and it is safe to return to Iraq, these people should be offered some form of protection in the UK.”

Despite the ongoing violence in Iraq, several European governments have forcibly returned rejected Iraqi asylum-seekers to Iraq. In 2009, the authorities in Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the UK forcibly returned Iraqis to unsafe parts of Iraq, such as central Iraq, in breach of UNHCR guidelines.

On 15 October 2009 UK authorities forcibly deported 44 rejected Iraqi asylum-seekers to Baghdad; the Iraqi authorities allowed only ten of them to enter and the remainder were flown back to the UK. The Norwegian authorities forcibly returned 30 Iraqis to Baghdad in December 2009 and 13 in January 2010.

For its report “Iraq: Civilians under fire” published in April 2010, Amnesty International spoke to several Iraqis who were forcibly returned by the Netherlands government on 30 March 2010. Among the 35 refugees was a 22-year-old Shi’a Turkoman man from Tal Afar, a city north of Mosul, where hundreds of civilians have been killed in sectarian or other politically motivated violence in recent years, and where the violence continues unabated. As of mid-April, he remained stranded in Baghdad.

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