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
News
people
News
A survey carried out by Sainsbury's Finance found 20% of new university students have never washed their own clothes, while 14% cannot even boil an egg
science...and the results are not as pointless as that sounds
News
politicsIs David Cameron trying to prove he's down with the kids?
News
Businessman at desk circa 1950s
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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

Sauce Recruitment: Partnership Sales Executive - TV

competitive + benefits: Sauce Recruitment: An award-winning global multi-media...

Sauce Recruitment: Account Director

£26017.21 - £32521.19 per annum + OTE $90,000: Sauce Recruitment: My client is...

Recruitment Genius: Linux Systems Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of UK Magento hosting so...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Development Manager - North Kent - OTE £19K

£16000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A unique opportunity has arisen...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea