[ 03. Dec 2005 ]

UK: No deportations to Iraq!

Halte aux expulsion! Stop deportation!

The first forced deportation of Iraqi Kurds from the UK to Iraq took place on 19th of November 2005. 15 men were taken to an airport at night, handcuffed, beaten and forced onto a military plane headed for Arbil in northern Iraq.


- Forced deportations to Iraq
- Stop the Deportations - Iraq is Not Safe
- Eviction of Iraqis from section 4 accommodation in Leeds
- Briefing: Iraq - return and Section 4 support
- Details of assisted return programmes, and numbers of those returned in 2004
- Developments regarding refugees from Iraq

Forced deportations to Iraq

The plans to remove Asylum Seekers from the UK to Iraq started in February 2004. Beside forced deportations, a program for "voluntary" return was worked out from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and started in May 2004. Now failed asylum seekers are forced to agree with "voluntary" return, otherwise they will loose social support (section 4) and are confronted with evictions and forced deportations.

In 2004 no forced deportation took place. An agreement with Iraqi authorities was signed in January 2005. In July 2005 UK Home Office called the northern (Kurdish) parts of Iraq "safe" - to start with forced deportations of up to 5.000 Refugees.

The Home Office confirmed that it forcibly removed 15 Iraqis in the early hours of 19th of November 2005. The :: Refugee Council deplores the return of asylum seekers to Iraq:

We are appalled that despite our calls - and against the advice of the UN High Commission for Refugees in London - the government has gone ahead with the forced return of 15 men back to Iraq. The situation across all parts of Iraq remains highly volatile and insecure, with terrorist attacks, kidnappings and chronic political instability. And we do not believe the government has taken sufficient steps to ensure the safety of the people it has sent back today to this war torn region.
The way the Home Office has handled this removal process has been deplorable. People who are rounded up and detained awaiting removal should at least be able to get access to a lawyer who can make last minute representations on their behalf. It is clear that in many cases this has not happened. The government has acted in secrecy and with undue haste and that cannot be right when people fear for their lives if they are returned.

Stop the Deportations - Iraq is Not Safe

The Campaign Against Detention and Deportation of Iraqis (CADDI) called for a demonstration to stop the deportations to Iraq in Sheffield on Saturday, 17th of December 2005 (12 noon Peace Gardens). They wrote in the call:

The first forced deportation of Iraqi Kurds from the UK to Iraq took place on November 19th. 15 men were taken to an airport at night, handcuffed, beaten and forced onto a military plane headed for Arbil in northern Iraq. One man, Karwan told us: "I was taken onto the plane like an animal not a human". After they were dumped at Arbil airport, three of them were arrested by local police. We have not heard from them since. One man has killed himself within 2 days of life in "safe" Iraq.

In Sheffield during November, around 200 Iraqi Kurds were evicted from their accommodation by order of the Home Office. Many live with no state support and are not allowed to work. They are afraid to follow Home Office rules to report to police stations: when Karwan reported to Dallas Court in Bolton for an "interview" he was held and deported. This is called kidnapping.

The UK Government is the first in Europe to order forced deportations to Iraq. The UK Home Office is alone in claiming that northern Iraq is "safe". If Iraq is safe then why does the Government need to evict, starve, kidnap and beat Iraqi Kurds into returning?

On Saturday, 3rd Dec 2005, 2pm the :: Sheffield No Borders Public Meeting - "No One Is Illegal" will take place at SADACCA Community Centre, 48 The Wicker, urngreave. It will be an opportunity to organise practical support for Sheffield's Iraqi Kurdish community.

Eviction of Iraqis from section 4 accommodation in Leeds

:: reports that NASS' (National Asylum Support Service) plan is to make a concerted effort, probably over a six week period, to persuade all Iraqis receiving section 4 support in Leeds of the benefits of VARRP and try and get more to sign-up with presentations from IOM. During this time Iraqis in receipt of section 4 support will not be evicted and will continue to receive support if they are in the accommodation. NASS will continue to provide section 4 support if the criteria are met after this proposed six week period. Those who have already received discontinuation letters but have not yet been evicted will continue to receive support rather than be evicted. Those who have been evicted will remain so and will have to reapply and fully satisfy the criteria if they wish to reaccess section 4 support again.
After the six week period, the eviction process will be restarted for those who have not signed up for VARRP.
Please note, this temporary stay in evictions applies to Leeds only and the the process of requiring Iraqis to sign up for the VARRP to receive section 4 support will continue elsewhere.

On 1st Dec 2005 :: published the story: "Rethink halts eviction of failed asylum seekers":

Home Office minister Tony McNulty ordered a rethink after it emerged that large numbers of people waiting to be sent back, were disappearing into the "underworld" after receiving confusing letters telling them they had to go back to their home country.
Fears were raised that the failed asylum seekers were being driven into criminal activities because they were left destitute after having their subsistence cut off.
Hundreds of letters were sent out to people on section four in the Leeds area during a period of around four weeks informing them they needed to make arrangements to voluntarily return home. It said that if they did not respond to the letter, their subsistence would be cut off.
Many either misunderstood the letters, or failed to respond due to fear and either disappeared or had their benefits stopped and were evicted – leading to problems in the area.

Briefing: Iraq - return and Section 4 support

The Refugee Council has produced a :: briefing following a number of important developments on several asylum policy issues relating to Iraq. It is a brief overview of the current position as regards that country and it must be stressed that the situation remains fluid in all respects. Further briefings will be produced as issues develop and arrangements become clearer.

Read the full Briefing: :: Iraq - return and Section 4 support, November 2005 (pdf)

Details of assisted return programmes, and numbers of those returned in 2004

The following paragraphs are quotes from :: European Council on Refugees and Exiles - Country Report 2004 - United Kingdom (pdf):

12,430 principal asylum applicants were removed from the UK in 2004 including enforced removals, persons departing 'voluntarily' following the enforcement action initiated and persons leaving under the Assisted Voluntary Return Programme run by the International Organization for Migration. Including dependants, 14,715 asylum seekers were removed. The nationalities with largest numbers of principal applicants removed or departing voluntarily in 2004 were asylum seekers from SAM (1,980), Afghanistan (795), Iraq (760), Albania (675), Romania (500), Pakistan (475), Iran (460) and Sri Lanka (450).

The Voluntary Assisted Return and Reintegration Programme (VARRP) is an assistance package coordinated by IOM, in collaboration with its programme partners, for asylum seekers, failed asylum seekers and people with limited leave to remain who want to return permanently to their country of origin. The Programme is financed by the Home Office and co-funded by the European Refugee Fund (ERF). It generally covers the following:

- Advice, counselling and information to help applicants decide on whether to participate in the scheme;
- Mines-awareness training if appropriate;
- A flight to the country of origin and onward transportation to the final destination; and
- The opportunity to take advantage of a reintegration fund in the country of origin.

The aim of the Reintegration Fund is to provide financial support for activities that benefit returnees, providing tools for self-sufficiency in their country of origin. Reintegration assistance provided will vary according to the needs of returnees, availability of resources and local circumstances in the country of origin. Where possible, the reintegration activity will be implemented so as to contribute to the development of the local community as well as the returnees, for example, through supporting local development projects.

Of the 3,590 asylum seekers removed in Q2 2005, 660 were principal applicants removed under Assisted Voluntary Return schemes and 55 were dependants.

Developments regarding refugees from Iraq

A Home Office press release issued on 24 February, set out plans for a pilot programme for both removal of unsuccessful asylum seekers and voluntary return to Iraq to commence in April. Agreement was reached with the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) for 30 Iraqis to be removed each month, for an initial period of three months. The upsurge in violence that occurred in Iraq from April meant these plans were not acted upon. The agreement with the CPA was superseded by the handover to the Iraqi Interim Government (IIG) on 28th June. The newly appointed Minister for Displacement and Migration made a series of statements, which made clear the IIG's unwillingness to accept forcible returns, or large scale voluntary returns, until Iraq's security environment had improved, and the country had the capacity to absorb them. Despite this, the UK government maintained its policy of removing unsuccessful Iraqi asylum seekers 'as soon as the practical arrangements were in place'. No Iraqis were forcibly removed from the UK to Iraq in 2004, but there was a growing pool of unsuccessful claimants with no means of support. 'Voluntary' returns were taking place, with the International Organization for Migration flying returnees to Jordan and escorting them to the Iraqi border, where they travelled onwards to Baghdad. The safety of this route formed one element of a legal challenge brought against the Home Office towards the end of the year, where it was argued that unsuccessful Iraqi asylum seekers who applied for Section 4 support (see Question 24) should not be required to apply for voluntary return as the route currently used was demonstrably unsafe. The Home Office conceded this case in January 2005 and Iraqis were free to apply for Section 4 support without opting for voluntary return. People who do return voluntarily are required to sign a waiver saying that they are travelling at their own risk. Returns will resume when the route is acknowledged to be safe and a new readmission agreement has been signed with the new government. (:: ECRE Country Report 2004 - UK (pdf))