Today, the Home Office is due to deport up to 32 Iraqi asylum seekers, including some based in Yorkshire on a specially chartered plane to Arbil in northern Iraq.
In a newly leaked letter, (1) it was revealed the Home Secretary urged duty judges to take into account the “complexities, practicalities and costs involved in arranging such charters” when considering any applications made for injunctions to prevent the return of the Iraqis to Iraq.
This is the second group of Iraqis to be forcibly returned to Iraq. The first group were returned in November 2005. On this occasion, a court subsequently ruled that the deportation of one of the men had been illegal, forcing the Home Office to search Iraq to try and find the man and prompting High Court Judge Justice Collins to strongly criticise the Government’s policy and noting that “the court has got a little fed up with how the Home Office is putting these removals into practice”. (2)
In response Maeve Sherlock, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council said
“News reports every day show that Iraq is still a highly volatile and dangerous place. It isn’t possible under these circumstances to guarantee the safety of anyone returned there.
“Returns should be sustainable, and to an environment where people have the opportunity to rebuild their lives in safety. ;Many Iraqis are keen to return to and will do so as soon as it is safe.”
Charlotte Cooke, team manager at the Refugee Council’s Yorkshire and Humberside regional office, said “Every day people in Britain hear of bomb attacks and mass sectarian killings in Iraq. Few are in any doubt that Iraq is a highly volatile place, many fear on the brink of civil war. “
“Any returns should be sustainable and to an environment where people have the opportunity to rebuild their lives in safety. Issuing the kind of advice the Home Office has sent to judges on this occasion can only make such returns less safe.”
“Forced returns are also hugely expensive, costing in the region of £11,000 each according to the National Audit Office. That means this operation may have cost in the region of £300,000. Many Iraqis are keen to return to Iraq and will do so as soon as it is safe. Until it is safe our view is that Iraqis should be given a temporary status allowing them to work and support themselves.”
For further information contact press office: Hannah Ward 020 7346 1213 (Switchboard: 020 7346 6700). For urgent or out of hours inquiries ring 0870 0555500 & ask for pager 865169.
(1) Guardian: Reid warns judges not to block Iraqis’ deportation
(2) Telegraph: Clarke to bring back wrongly deported Kurd
BBC: Judge attacks deportation tactics
Please note: Representatives of the Iraqi Kurdish community in Yorkshire and Humberside are available for interview
Contact: Richard Byrne, Refugee Council Regional Media Officer.
Tel: 0113 386 2235/ 07776 203404