Iraq: Deported refugees fearful of persecution on their return

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The Independent Online

Thirty-two Iraqis have been deported from Britain despite warnings that they face persecution and violence upon their return.

To the anger of refugee groups, they will be forced to start new lives today in the Kurdish-controlled north of the country that some fled up to a decade ago.

A last-ditch attempt by lawyers to halt the removals resulted in a reprieve for five of the men, but immigration officials ordered five other Iraqis in custody to take their place.In a display of the Home Office's determination to deal more toughly with failed asylum-seekers, the group was flown direct by military aircraft from an RAF base to northern Iraq.

The Foreign Office advises against all but essential travel to the area, and the UN opposes enforced returns to northern Iraq.

Iraqi Kurds held a demonstration outside the Home Office, warning that the deportees would be victimised because of their opposition to the major political parties in the northof the country. Sherzad Ahmad fled Iraq after his wife was murdered. He said his family had been targeted for their Communist sympathies. "I don't understand how anyone could think I will be safe if I'm sent back," he said.

Another 60 Kurds are believed to be in detention, while hundreds more have been served notice that they will be expelled from Britain.

The Home Office insists that the forced removals are essential to deter future asylum-seekers.