Agency says situation too dangerous in some areas to force refugees home
The UN refugee agency is reiterating its appeal to governments not to forcibly deport Iraqi asylum seekers to their war-torn country. The UNHCR says violence is spiraling out of control in some places, making it too dangerous for Iraqis to be sent home against their will.
The UN refugee agency says it is shocked and saddened by the recent bombings and continued violence in Iraq. It says the deaths of hundreds of people and wounding of many others this week shows that Iraq is far from being a safe place for refugees to return.
The United Kingdom forcibly deported a number of Iraqis in April. This prompted the UNHCR to warn countries it was premature to send refugees and asylum seekers back to their country.
UNHCR spokesman, Andrej Mahecic, says the region of Central Iraq is particularly unsafe. And, countries should refrain from sending Iraqis back to Baghdad, Ninewa, Salah al Din, Diyala and Kirkuk.
He says in view of the serious human rights violations and continuing security incidents in these areas, people coming from there are in need of international protection "UNHCR therefore advises against involuntary returns to Iraq of persons originating from central Iraq until there is a substantial improvement in the security and human rights situation in the country. Concerning asylum-seekers from the three northern governorates, as well as those from the southern governorates and Al Anbar, UNHCR recommends that their protection needs are assessed on an individual basis," he said.
Mahecic says since the UNHCR criticized the United Kingdom for forcibly returning Iraqi asylum seekers, the problem has escalated. "We have seen a number of European countries including some Scandinavian countries -- Denmark, Sweden, Norway-doing this. This has prompted by the same reasons of violence, which is underlying the need for the countries to adhere to our guidelines. It is just too dangerous to forcibly return people to Iraq," he said.
Mahecic says many groups continue to face significant threats even though the number of security incidents has been reduced. He notes the numbers of Iraqi refugees returning are being offset by new arrivals.