The Home Office has been criticised for deporting 38 failed asylum-seekers to Iraq despite the escalating violence there. The group was flown amid tight security by military aircraft from RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire to Arbil in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq yesterday.
The 38, who boarded the flight in handcuffs, are believed to be the third batch of asylum-seekers to be sent to the area against their will. Although less troubled than the rest of Iraq, the region faces a threat from terrorism.
The Home Office says such removals are essential to "maintain the integrity" of the asylum system and that no one will be put at risk by being returned. But Dashty Jamal, of the International Federation of Iraqi Refugees, said: "We are very worried for the lives. We believe they are in danger."
Within hours of their arrival in Iraq, a truck rigged with explosives blew up near a Baghdad college, killing 18 people. The previous day, bomb blasts ripped apart two crowded city markets. There has also been a wave of killings in Kirkuk, 60 miles from Arbil, over the past month.
A spokesman for Amnesty International said: "These forced removals are sending a wave of fear throughout the Iraqi community in the UK.
"They are putting people's lives at risk. In post-conflict situations, people should only be returned if there is stability and a durable peace. Only a fantasist could say that of Iraq."
Anna Reisenberger, the Refugee Council's acting chief executive, said: "To return what amounts to a token number of asylum-seekers to a place where their safety cannot be guaranteed is alarming."Reuse content