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September 3, 10

NEWS / UN agency urges European nations not to deport Iraqi refugees to unsafe areas

3 September 2010 – The United Nations refugee agency today voiced concern about ongoing deportations of Iraqis from Western European countries back to violence-prone areas of their homeland, stressing that they should continue to benefit from international protection.

“We strongly urge European governments to provide Iraqis with protection until the situation in their areas of origin in Iraq allows for safe and voluntary returns,” Adrian Edwards, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told reporters in Geneva.

“In this critical time of transition, we also encourage all efforts to develop conditions in Iraq that are conducive to sustainable and voluntary return,” he added.

UNHCR guidelines for Iraq ask governments not to forcibly return people originating from the governorates of Baghdad, Diyala, Kirkuk, Ninewa and Salah Al-din, owing to the serious human rights violations and continuing security incidents in these areas.

“Our position is that Iraqi asylum applicants originating from these five governorates should benefit from international protection in the form of refugee status under the 1951 Refugee Convention or an alternative form of protection,” said Mr. Edwards.

On 1 September, a chartered flight with 61 people on board, mainly Iraqis who had been residing in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and the United Kingdom, landed at Baghdad airport. UNHCR has not so far been able to confirm reports that three Iranians were among those on board.

The agency noted that some of those returned on Wednesday may be destined for safer areas such as that controlled by the Kurdistan Regional Government, while others may have elected to return voluntarily.

Eleven of the individuals UNHCR interviewed on arrival originated from Baghdad, and at least one person is a Christian from Mosul, in the governorate of Ninewa.

“The security situation in that governorate remains extremely volatile,” Mr. Edwards noted.

He said that in the Baghdad governorate, the security situation remains unstable with increased attacks and several recent major security incidents, including a series of coordinated attacks on 25 August throughout the country that killed over 60 people and injured 250.

Car explosions, roadside bombs, mortar attacks and kidnapping remain daily threats for Iraqis, he added.

According to UNHCR, the ongoing violence in Iraq has resulted in large scale internal and external displacement of the population. More than 1.5 million people remain displaced within the country, while hundreds of thousands of people have found refuge in neighbouring countries, mainly in Syria and Jordan.




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