1. Accueil
  2. Moyen-Orient et Afrique du Nord
  3. Iraq

UNHCR concerned over Iraqi deportations

In October, UNHCR said that since 2007 the agency had recommended the resettlement of 82,500 Iraqi refugees from the Middle East to third countries, mainly Western
(Stephen Starr/IRIN)

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has expressed concern about the growing number of deportations of Iraqi asylum-seekers from Western Europe in the last two months.



Special charter flights to take failed asylum-seekers home have increased in frequency, and Iraqis are being returned to parts of the country which are still unsafe, in contravention of UNHCR guidelines for the handling of Iraqi asylum applications, it says.



The deportations are handled by Frontex, a Warsaw-based agency set up to coordinate operations between European Union (EU) member states in the field of border security, and their planes can carry returnees from several different countries. The most recent (on 22 September) had failed asylum applicants from Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands and the UK.



One of the UNHCR’s complaints is that the information provided by those countries is usually sketchy, varies from country to country and is given only very late in the process. In the case of last week’s flight, Sweden told the UNHCR the names and dates of birth of those being sent home, but not their destinations. The UK provided details of where its rejected claimants were going but not their identities.



No country told the UNHCR how many of the passengers being put on board the plane were going home voluntarily, and how many were being deported against their will, but reports from Baghdad say police had to be called to escort some of them off the plane.



A spokesperson for the UNHCR, Sybella Wilkes, called for states sending home asylum-seekers to be more transparent. “We are aware when a flight is leaving,” she told IRIN, “but we don’t know until the last minute who is on board or which countries they are coming from.”



The organization does not oppose people being sent back to Iraq in every case. “It’s possible that some people on the plane were going back voluntarily,” Wilkes said. “It’s possible that some were going to areas where we don’t have issues about security. But we don’t know. Having full information would be in everybody’s best interests.”



What they do know is that among the passengers leaving Sweden were two women and four children. The British government said all those it was sending last week were single adult males, but their destinations included Baghdad, Ninawa, Kirkuk and Salah ad-Din - all areas the UNHCR considers unsafe.



Five governorates unsafe



“We are very clear in our guidelines,” said Sybella Wilkes. “Baghdad, Diyala, Kirkuk, Ninawa and Salah ad-Din are still not safe, in view of serious human rights violations and continuing security incidents in those areas. We specifically ask governments not to return people to those five governorates, and we are disappointed they are ignoring our guidelines.”



The general secretary of the International Federation of Iraqi Refugees, Dashty Jamal, blamed the rise in forced removals on the electoral success of right wing parties in a number of European countries. He told IRIN: “Most of the EU countries’ right-wing parties have united together to change their immigration policy, and deport back all Iraqis who apply for asylum in their country.”



He said that as well as the charter flights run by Frontex, individual refugees are being sent back almost every night on scheduled flights to Jordan. “I believe that no part of Iraq is safe, even Kurdistan. It is like the UN saying that Berne in Switzerland is safe but Zurich is not safe. This is not the time to send people back. They are playing with the lives of innocent people.”



Contacted by IRIN, the UK’s border agency denied there had been any overall policy recently to deport more Iraqi asylum-seekers. Detailed figures of deportations over the past two months are not yet available, but a spokesperson insisted that every case is looked at individually and considered on its merits. “We only ever return those whom the Border Agency and the courts are satisfied are not in need of our protection, and who have failed to comply with a request to leave.”



Are the Agency and the courts ignoring the UNHCR guidelines on safe and unsafe areas? “A whole range of factors are taken into account,” the spokesperson told IRIN. “And from the UK’s point of view we have to be satisfied that they don’t need our protection.”



The UNHCR has been lobbying since June against the forced removals to Iraq, but says so far they have not seen any shift in position by Western European governments. Sybella Wilkes says she is disappointed. “I would like them to consider that they have a minority of Iraqi asylum-seekers in their countries. And this is not a very positive example when Iraq’s neighbours have much greater numbers, and have been much more generous and welcoming.”



Dashty Jamal told IRIN on 28 September that a number of Iraqis in the UK had received tickets for a flight back to Iraq on 6 October, and that a demonstration was being planned that day outside the Iraqi embassy in London to protest at the way returnees are treated when they get to Baghdad.































































































































































































































































































































































Refugee Returns September 2009 - August 2010 (Individuals)
Governorate

of Return
Sep-09Oct-09Nov-09Dec-09Jan-10Feb-10Mar-10Apr-10May-10Jun-10Jul-10Aug-10Total September

2009 - August 2010
Anbar01000100000000200%
Babylon90806011050505050406050407303%
Baghdad8301,7001,1301,08086078072078078087057089010,99040%
Basrah102301003040103050402040406402%
Dahuk20900101001000100101601%
Qadissyah803030704404104804405103302701003,19012%
Diyala130230220160170120706010080701001,5106%
Erbil400905020403002010320801101,0804%
Kerbala80150130130601601201701601201001601,5406%
Kirkuk5030605040304050100020505202%
Missan20110601053020202043014010101,3805%
Muthanna505040506030106050140160107103%
Najaf70804013021019024012070100801301,4605%
Ninewa1010101000030301010101300%
Salah al-Din50601103030406030401040305302%
Sulaymaniyah10300300001010100101100%
Thi-Qar9090170200260240260230210240200802,2708%
Wassit2020509030404010302040704602%
TOTAL1,6503,0002,3002,2402,8202,1602,4502,1302,6102,4801,7401,85027,430100%
Data source: MoDM, DDM, City Councils Baghdad, Diyala. All data has been collected inside Iraq. All figures have been rounded to the nearest 10.



eb/cb

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

Partager cet article
Participez à la discussion

Right now, we’re working with contributors on the ground in Ukraine and in neighbouring countries to tell the stories of people enduring and responding to a rapidly evolving humanitarian crisis.

We’re documenting the threats to humanitarian response in the country and providing a platform for those bearing the brunt of the invasion. Our goal is to bring you the truth at a time when disinformation is rampant. 

But while much of the world’s focus may be on Ukraine, we are continuing our reporting on myriad other humanitarian disasters – from Haiti to the Sahel to Afghanistan to Myanmar. We’ve been covering humanitarian crises for more than 25 years, and our journalism has always been free, accessible for all, and – most importantly – balanced. 

You can support our journalism from just $5 a month, and every contribution will go towards our mission. 

Support The New Humanitarian today.

Become a member of The New Humanitarian

Support our journalism and become more involved in our community. Help us deliver informative, accessible, independent journalism that you can trust and provides accountability to the millions of people affected by crises worldwide.

Join