Home Office prepare Iraqis for enforced returns

The chief executive of the Refugee Council has hit out at government plans to forcibly remove asylum seekers to Iraq.

Maeve Sherlock said she was “appalled” at the development having learned yesterday afternoon that Iraqi asylum seekers were being detained in preparation for their forcible return to Iraq.

“All anyone needs to do is watch the news to see just how dangerous Iraq is at the moment,” she said. “There is no evidence that the situation in Iraq is improving at all.”

“The bottom line is that the government is planning to force people to return to a country torn apart by war and insurgency,” she added.

The Home Office confirmed that a number of Iraqis with no leave to remain were being detained with that intention in mind.

A spokesperson said the Home Office had announced its intention for a returns programme back in February 2004 and since July 2003, hundreds of Iraqi’s had returned home voluntarily.

“We will be judging enforced removals on a case by case basis and will only remove asylum seekers to areas assessed as sufficiently stable and where we are satisfied the individual will not be placed at risk.”

He accepted that while some areas were torn apart by insurgency, the Home Office was not convinced that this extended to all areas in Iraq.

However he insisted the situation would be monitored and kept under review.
The Refugee Council is calling on the government to reconsider its plans as a matter of urgency.

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