Last Thursday, 15 October 2009, the UK Border Agency tried to deport by charter flight about 40 Iraqi refugees who had been refused sanctuary in the UK. However, on arrival at Baghdad airport it appears that Iraqi officials refused entry to most of those onboard. Only eight people were taken from the plane, and there are conflicting reports as to whether they left voluntarily or were forcibly removed.
The operation has been widely condemned as a fiasco that was cruel, ill-conceived and inhumane, with protests in London and the launch of campaign to end forced removals to Iraq. The Guardian reports allegations of assault, racist taunts and operational chaos. Amnesty International has condemned the move and issued a statement saying:
“Given the reports of killings, bombings and other human rights abuses that continue to come out of Baghdad, it is hard to comprehend that the UK government considers it a safe place to return people. Until the situation improves and it is safe to return to Iraq, these people should be offered some form of protection in the UK.” Amnesty International UK
Those returned to the UK are now imprisoned at Brook House detention centre and still under threat of deportation to the Iraq warzone. There are now reports that the returnees have gone on hunger strike, joined by others from Afghanistan, Nigeria, Algeria and Jamaica. The hunger strikers issued a statement: We are going on hunger strike to demand our release. We have families who depend on us, wives and children who need our support. Most of us are being falsely removed to countries like Afghanistan and Iraq which are clearly war zones. Most of us have families in the UK. What are we supposed to do? Leave them behind or take them with us right into the middle of a war zone to be killed? (read the full statement here)
Campaign against deportations to Iraq
A campaign against these mass deportations has been launched. On Saturday a demonstration in London was organised by the Stop Deportation network. Stop Deportation points out that, within an already unjust system, mass deportation flights are not only inhumane but further limit refugees’ access to due legal process. Deportees and their representatives are not even told the date of the flight. On the day, they are woken up early in the morning and forced to switch off their phones so they are unable to instruct their solicitors to submit last-minute appeals. More details can be found in a Stop Deportation briefing.
Campaign Against Air Italy
NCADC has called on our supporters to make their feelings known to the airline involved – pressure on carriers in the past has worked, making them think twice about future contracts. NCADC are asking supporters to make their feelings known to Air Italy, the airline contracted by the UK Border Agency.
Please Fax/phone/Email Air Italy
Giuseppe Gentile, President & C.E.O.
Phone from UK: 00 + 39 + 0331 211 011
Fax from UK: 00 + 39 + 0331 211 019
Click here for an Air Italy model letter which you can copy/amend or write you own version
Safe to return?
Iraq is one of the most deadly places in the world. Since 2003 over 186,924 civilian lives have been lost and though the war is assumed to be over, there is no ‘peace’ and deaths continue daily/weekly. The Foreign Office website states “We advise against all travel to Baghdad and its surrounding area,”
“…the situation remains highly dangerous with a continuing high threat of terrorism throughout the country (except in the Kurdish Region). This includes violence and kidnapping targeting foreign nationals (including individuals of non-western appearance)… Even those working with dedicated protection teams should exercise extreme caution.” FCO