The Refugee Council in Yorkshire and Humberside today expressed grave concerns for the welfare of Iraqi Kurds facing destitution in the region this winter following the withdrawal of section 4 support from Iraqis Kurds refusing to sign up for so-called “voluntary” return to Iraq.
Section 4 support was granted to Iraqi Kurds in January 2005, after it was recognised that there is no safe route of return to Iraq. Since the opening of Irbil airport in Northern Iraq, the UK Government has taken the view that it is safe to return to Iraq. It has begun sending letters to 1600 Iraqi Kurds in Yorkshire and Humberside advising them that their support will end unless they sign up for voluntary returns. Very few have signed up and will face eviction.
Local pressure in Leeds has caused the Home Office to suspend sending letters in Leeds, as local services struggle with the outcome of the first round of evictions (over 200 to date in Leeds), but this suspension has not been extended to other parts of the region facing the same issues.
Refugee Council team manager Charlotte Cooke said:
“Since September this year over 1600 Iraqi Kurds in Yorkshire and Humberside have been sent letters offering them a cruel choice – return to war-torn Iraq, or face destitution this winter. Only a few have signed up for return, due to their fear of returning to Iraq while the situation there is so dangerous. The result of this policy is that hundreds of Iraqi Kurds are being made homeless, facing the prospect of sleeping rough on our streets this winter.”
“Enacting a policy which makes 1600 people destitute inevitably creates huge concerns for all groups concerned – ourselves, other refugee support services and charities, social services, health and the police. In addition, the recent forced deportations to Iraq [on 20 November 05] have created a climate of fear among the Iraqi Kurds seeking asylum here.”
“The Government wants to decrease the amount of money spent supporting asylum seekers. In our view there is a much more decent, dignified way to do that, and that is to give asylum seekers the right to work.”
Refugee Council press release: Refugee Council responses to renewed forced returns to Iraq
Yorkshire Evening Post: Rethink halts eviction of failed asylum seekers
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