Two of the thirty-two Iraqi Kurds who were deported to northern Iraq on a military plane this week have given eye-witness accounts of their enforced removal.
The International Federation of Iraqi Refugees (IFIR) has spoken to two of the deportees, who have said they are ‘angry, tired and stressed’ after being handed over to militia of the Kurdistan Democratic Party on the runway at Irbil airport and being questioned for several hours.
They have described how, on the morning of 5 September 2006, Home Office security guards entered the sleeping quarters at Colnbrook detention centre, west London, and led thirty-two Iraqi Kurds, barefoot and handcuffed, onto a coach. The deportees were then transferred onto a military plane at RAF Brize Norton and given flak jackets to wear.
While the flight was being readied for take-off, protestors gathered outside the Home Office to demand a halt to the flight. Sources inside Colnbrook detention centre spoke to demonstrators by telephone to report that at least one of those set to be deported had attempted to harm himself the evening before his deportation. It is thought that one Iraqi Kurd, who had spent six months in a prison in northern Iraq, before claiming asylum in Britain, had cut himself severely.
This week’s enforced returns to Iraq are the first that the Home Office has carried out since last November, when an attempt to deport more than seventy Iraqi Kurds ended with just twenty being returned. On that occasion, the majority of deportees made last-minute legal applications to prevent their removal. The Home Office attempted to avoid a repeat of last year’s legal challenges by issuing a letter to the duty high court judge, which warned that it would ignore any last-ditch applications for judicial review of individual cases. It wrote that it was taking such steps because of ‘the complexities, practicalities and costs involved in arranging’ enforced returns to Iraq.
In the event, five of the thirty-two who were to be deported this week were able to obtain injunctions from the high court to halt their removal. But their places were taken by five others whom the Home Office had placed on a ‘stand-by’ list.
Around fifty people protested outside the Home Office against the deportations and called for the release of detainees. The protest was organised by IFIR and the Coalition to Stop Deportations to Iraq.
Dashty Jamal, co-ordinator of IFIR, said: ‘The British government wants to send asylum seekers back to the most unsafe country in the world, a country that is in the midst of civil war, occupation and terrorism, and where the authorities shoot at demonstrators. We will continue to campaign to stop this dangerous policy.’