Refugee Council calls on the UK government to halt all deportations to Iraq immediately and do more to address the growing refugee crisis.
Two years to the day from the first forced removals flight to Iraq (20 November 2005), the Refugee Council today condemns this practice and urge the UK government to address the growing refugee crisis as a matter of urgency.
The Refugee Council has criticised the government for putting a lot of time, effort and resources into sending Iraqi asylum seekers back to Iraq while at the same time failing to act to help the huge number of Iraqis who have been displaced from their homes because of the on-going conflict.
- Since November 2005, over 1 million Iraqis are estimated to have fled their homes (source: UNHCR)
- In the same period, the UK has forcibly removed around 100 Iraqis, at an estimated cost of at least £1 million¹
“We are witnessing a massive humanitarian crisis in Iraq, with a movement of refugees bigger than any in the last fifty years” said Donna Covey, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council.
“The UK, as a leading country in the international community, is failing to live up to its responsibility. Instead, it continues to focus on removing relatively small numbers of refused Iraqi asylum seekers, at great cost, so as to meet Home Office targets. Quite apart from being very dangerous, this is a total misallocation of resources. Ministers need to get their priorities in order.”
In a letter sent last week to Foreign Secretary David Miliband, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Rescue Committee and the Refugee Council urged the following actions:
- A substantial increase in financial assistance to support refugee-hosting countries in the region, such as Syria and Jordan.
- A greater commitment to provide opportunities for the most vulnerable Iraqi refugees to resettle in the UK
- Better recognition of the need for protection of those few Iraqis who have got to the UK in recent years.
- A suspension of all removals to Iraq, including to the northern areas where the instability has got worse in recent months.
- The granting of some form of temporary status to all Iraqis in the UK so that they are not left in limbo with no access to support and no entitlement to work
The agencies also called on Mr Miliband to provide much more information about the UK’s assistance plans for its former employees in Iraq, including the reasons for excluding Iraqis who have worked for the British for less than 12 months or who did not use a high level of English in their work.
Notes to editor:
- In 2005, the National Audit Office estimated that it cost around £11,000 to deport each individual asylum seeker. In the case of Iraqis, the first three flights were made using military aircraft, so the true cost is estimated to be far higher.
- You can also read the letter to the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, in full