Anger as asylum seekers forcibly returned to Iraq

Ministers faced a wave of anger last night after ordering the forcible return of failed asylum-seekers to Baghdad despite the violence that continues to plague the Iraqi capital.

A flight containing about a dozen Iraqis who had been claiming refuge in this country was due to leave Britain early today for Baghdad. The decision to go ahead with the deportations was taken in the face of United Nations guidelines and despite a Foreign Office warning against all travel to the city.

The returns to Baghdad, which is still suffering suicide bombings and sectarian violence more than seven years after the war, were condemned by human rights and refugee groups.

Several returns have already taken place to northern Iraq, which is viewed as relatively safe. But only once before has a plane-load of rejected asylum-seekers been sent to Baghdad – and it ended in farce when Iraqi officials turned away most passengers.

One of the refugees on today's flight, who has been living in Britain for six years, claims his membership of Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party makes him vulnerable to attack. His solicitor told The Independent last night: "The high profile of someone returning from the West could make him an easy target."

Separate deportation flights from Norway and the Netherlands to Baghdad were also due to take place today.

Last October more than 30 asylum-seekers deported to Baghdad by the Home Office were refused entry to their own country and flown back to Britain. But, despite continued wrangling over the legality of returns to the Iraqi capital, the Government is reviving the previous administration's returns policy. A second flight is also scheduled to leave Britain next week.

Dashty Jamal, general secretary of the International Federation of Iraqi Refugees, said: "I'm very unhappy this coalition government – especially as it contains Liberal Democrats – is continuing this inhumane policy. There are still lots of problems with security in Iraq. Workers are being killed daily. There are many murders, kidnaps."

Jan Shaw, Amnesty International's UK refugee programme director, said: "It is unfathomable the UK can consider Baghdad a safe place to return people. As far as we are concerned, removing someone to Iraq should only take place when the security situation in the whole country has stabilised."

Amnesty International recently documented the killings of scores of civilians in Baghdad, some of whom were tortured before their mutilated bodies were dumped in the street. It said returning asylum-seekers often suffered abuse and violence.

"Muhsin", a former interpreter for the Multinational Force, returned to the city after claiming asylum in various European countries for two years. On his arrival he was beaten, threatened with detention and forced to hand over $1,300 (£902). A month later he was arrested and beaten again. After just four months back in the city he fled Iraq for the second time.

Donna Covey, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said: "This is an astonishing and alarming move that disregards all of the evidence that Baghdad is still a very unsafe place. Returning small numbers of individuals to a city where their safety is far from guaranteed is both costly and shows a serious disregard for their welfare."

Matthew Coats, head of immigration at the UK Border Agency said: "In 2008 the courts found that we were able to return people to Iraq. The security situation in Iraq is significantly better now than it was in 2008."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Digital Web Designer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Web Designer is required to join a f...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Business Development Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity to develop an ...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Middleweight

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's fastest growing full s...

Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

£35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor