Iraqis contest forced deportations from UK


London : The Refugee Legal Center has launched an urgent appeal against a ruling by the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal, which it says paves the way for the removal of the majority of Iraqi asylum seekers in the UK.

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“If we didn’t appeal the tribunal’s decision, the government would have a free hand to forcibly remove hundreds of Iraqi civilians to Baghdad,” said Caroline Slocock, chief executive of the campaign group.

The appeal comes after the Home Office won a landmark test case giving it the power to return refugees to war-torn parts of their home country, including Basra and Baghdad.

The test case is the culmination of a series of legal challenges that started last year and hinged on a European Council directive guaranteeing refugees the right to protection in the UK if their return meant a “serious threat to their life.”
Neither the Refugee Convention nor the European Convention on Human Rights guarantees refugees from war zones the right to remain in the UK, the government argued at the tribunal that there was no ‘internal armed conflict’ in Iraq as defined by the directive.

Home Office lawyers successfully argued the general risks to the refugee in the test case – a man known as KH – were not sufficient for him to be granted protection.

“Neither civilians in Iraq generally, nor civilians even in provinces and cities worst affected by the armed conflict, can show they face a ‘serious and individual threat’ to their ‘life or person’… merely by virtue of being civilians,” the tribunal ruled.

The ruling prompted a strong reaction from the UN, which has urged the government not to start sending people back to the most dangerous parts of Iraq.

“We strongly advise against the return of anyone to central or southern Iraq,” said Jacqueline Parlevliet, deputy representative with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

“As things now stand a sword of Damocles hangs over the head of every Iraqi in the UK. The way this ruling has been phrased means their protection needs are no longer recognised by the Home Office,” Parleviet ws quoted saying by the Observer newspaper Sunday.