Judge attacks plans to return failed Iraqi asylum-seekers

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Mr Justice Collins, sitting in London yesterday, said the Government should not enforce the removal of individuals pending clarification of a legal ruling which could mean they have the right to stay in the UK.

However a Home Office spokesman said the Government was "committed to commencing the enforced return of failed asylum-seekers".

The spokesman said: "It is important for the integrity of our asylum system that any individual who is found not to be in need of international protection should be expected to leave the UK."

Mr Justice Collins said it would be wrong to enforce the removal of individuals who may be protected by a recent Court of Appeal decision, and he did not think the Home Office "ought to be thinking" of removing such individuals until the scope of the ruling had been determined.

The judge announced he was not making an order blocking removals, but hoped that what he had said "should give the necessary protection".

The Home Office spokesman added: "Since July 2003, hundreds of Iraqis have returned home voluntarily, and hundreds more are currently preparing to return. Enforced returns will be taken forward on a case-by-case basis."