On the three previous occasions in which military flights have been used to remove Iraqis from the UK, the Home Office has faced severe criticism. Now, it appears, small numbers of Iraqis are being quietly removed on other flights which are less open to public scrutiny.
IRR News has learned that two or three Iraqis were removed last night on a flight bound for Erbil, northern Iraq, travelling via Jordan. Rather than chartering a military flight, as on previous occasions, the Home Office is thought to have removed the Iraqis on board a flight containing medicines and other humanitarian supplies. It is believed that small numbers of Iraqis will now be removed each month using this new approach.
Whereas the Home Office normally discloses information on chartered flights, information about deportees who are removed on other flights is generally not made available. When asked whether any Iraqis had been removed this week, a Home Office spokesperson told IRR News: ‘We only give specific information on charter flights and the last charter flight was on 12 February 2007. However we take a robust approach to people who are here illegally and deal with returns on a case by case basis.’
Despite the escalating violence across the whole of Iraq, the Home Office seems determined to continue its programme of sending Iraqis back to the country against their will. Although less troubled than the rest of Iraq, the Kurdish region of northern Iraq faces regular outbreaks of terrorist violence as well as a range of other human rights abuses.
Dashty Jamal, of the International Federation of Iraqi Refugees, told IRR News: ‘We know that those who have been returned to Iraq on previous deportation flights have suffered abuses of various kinds upon their return. We call on the government to halt these dangerous flights, which put people’s lives at risk.’ (IRR News story: Deported asylum seeker condemns Home Office from Iraqi Kurdish hospital)
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees maintains that it is currently unsafe to return Iraqis who have sought asylum overseas.
At least two million Iraqis have fled the country since the occupation began in 2003 – most have ended up in refugee camps in Jordan and Syria. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have also been forcibly displaced within Iraq’s borders.