Search for Kurdish refugee deported to Iraq by mistake

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The Independent Online

A Kurd who was unlawfully deported to Iraq in the middle of the night is being sought by the Home Office so he can be brought back to Britain.

The 29-year-old man was among 15 failed asylum-seekers expelled last month in the first forcible removals to Iraq. He was flown out of Britain in a midnight flight under the controversial policy, which has been strongly criticised by human rights and refugee groups.

In the High Court yesterday, counsel for Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, admitted a "regrettable mistake" had been made in forcing Mr A on to the plane to Erbil in northern Iraq.

For the second leg of the flight from Cyprus to Iraq, the deported Iraqis were given flak jackets and helmets to protect them. Mr A has gone into hiding, apparently unaware of efforts to track him down.

Clive Lewis, appearing for the Home Office, admitted there had been a breach of policy as Mr A had not been given removal directions in time to consult lawyers because he was considered to be at risk of self-harm or suicide.

Mr Lewis said: "The Secretary of State has decided that, since we did not follow the policy set out - albeit for the best of motives - we shall use our best endeavours to find him. The Secretary of State has done the decent, honourable thing."

Mr Justice Collins, sitting in London, questioned why it was necessary to remove people at "about midnight in the middle of the weekend". He said: "There has been too much of this recently. Frankly the court has got a little fed up with how the Home Office is putting these removals into practice. It is not good enough."

The judge called for talks between the judiciary and the Home Office so that "sensible arrangements" could be made.

The enforced repatriation came to light after Mr A's fiancee, a woman from Birmingham referred to as "Ms K", turned to the Refugee Legal Centre for help.

She is a British citizen with two children from an earlier relationship who met Mr A in January this year and started a relationship with him. They moved in together in October and planned to marry. His plea to remain in the country on the basis of the relationship was rejected last month.

A spokesman for the Refugee Council said: "This shows the shambolic way the Home Office handled the forced removals to Iraq last month. We pleaded with the Government not to go ahead, as it was clear that the whole process of removal was deeply flawed."