Middle East

Concern over reported plans to deport Iraqis

Iraqi policemen prepare to secure the scene of bombings in central Baghdad, Sunday, June 13, 2010.
Image caption The UNHCR says Iraq remains too violent to send refugees back

Refugee agencies have expressed concern over reported plans by the UK to deport about 50 Iraqi asylum seekers to Baghdad.

Ten Iraqis were sent back to Baghdad from the UK last week, along with others from Sweden and the Netherlands.

Some of them have been detained at Baghdad Airport since their arrival.

The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, has cautioned against deportations because of the levels of violence and human rights violations in parts of Iraq.

It argues this means that refugees should continue to benefit from international protection.

International refugee officials have also criticised what they call the lack of transparency involved in these deportations by the UK Border Agency, which has refused to confirm that the removals are going ahead.

'Enforced'

The deportation of the asylum seekers - thought to number between 50 and 60 - is known as an "enforced return".

Those on the list for deportation told the BBC they had already been moved to short-term holding centres ready for a flight they do not want to take.

One, who left Iraq when he was 17, has to leave behind his three-year-old son.

He said he would rather stay in detention in the UK indefinitely than be sent back to Iraq.

The Foreign Office's travel advice for Iraq says that the situation remains highly dangerous except for the Kurdish north.

Last week's flight supposedly included only refugees who had signed papers saying they were returning voluntarily.

One of the Iraqis sent back told the BBC in a text message that 13 of them had been held at Baghdad airport since their arrival.

"We would be happy to go back to England because we are prisoners, we don't have any food, and conditions are very bad," he said.

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