UN agency concerned over forced returns of asylum-seekers from central Iraq

23 October 2009

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today expressed its concern that some European nations have recently been forcibly returning asylum-seekers from central Iraq – which has witnessed serious human rights violations and continuing insecurity.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today expressed its concern that some European nations have recently been forcibly returning asylum-seekers from central Iraq – which has witnessed serious human rights violations and continuing insecurity.

Agency guidelines issued last April noted that asylum-seekers from Iraq's central governorates should be considered to be in need of international protection.

UNHCR therefore advises against involuntary returns to Iraq of persons originating from Central Iraq until there is a substantial improvement in the security and human rights situation in the country,” spokesperson Andrej Mahecic told reporters.

Earlier this month, the United Kingdom tried to forcibly send 44 Iraqi men to Baghdad, but upon arrival in Iraq's capital, authorities only accepted 10 of them, while the rest were sent back to the UK and placed in immigration centres.

Other European countries have signed re-admissions agreements with Iraq for both voluntary and forced returns.

Denmark has forcibly returned 38 people – mainly from central and southern Iraq – since signing the agreement in May, while Sweden, another signatory, has sent 250 people back. “UNHCR has also concerns about the safety and dignity of these returns,” Mr. Mahecic said.

The agency recommended that the protection needs of asylum-seekers from the three northern governorates and from the southern governorates and Al Anbar be assessed on an individual basis.

According to a report released yesterday by UNHCR, Iraqis head the list of the growing number of people seeking asylum in industrialized countries again this year, just ahead of people searching for safety from war-torn Afghanistan and Somalia.

Some 185,000 asylum-seekers filed applications in the first six months of 2009 across 38 European countries, the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and the Republic of Korea (ROK), representing a 10 per cent increase on the same period last year.

The report showed that 13,200 claims came from Iraqis, making it the top country of origin for the fourth successive year, 12,000 came from Afghans and 11,000 from Somalis, as security conditions continued to deteriorate in large parts of those countries.

 

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