Three former Iraqi interpreters for the UK Army, who were forced to flee to Syria after receiving death threats, have appealed to UK Prime Minister Tony Blair not to abandon them and thousands of other Iraqi refugees facing an uncertain future in neighbouring countries.
Ahead of tomorrow’s crucial United Nations conference on the growing Iraqi refugee crisis, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the British Refugee Council have also written to Mr Blair, calling on his government to take urgent action.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees now estimates there are around 2 million Iraqi refugees sheltering in neighbouring countries, mostly in Syria and Jordan, with 40,000-50,000 more each month fleeing their homes.
Moreover, there is a growing number of Iraqi asylum seekers in Britain who have not been granted leave to stay, but as a result of the continued violence in Iraq are unable to return home. They are left homeless, hungry and without any means of providing for themselves.
In their letter, the three interpreters – Issa Jafer Al-Saed, Loay Mohammed Al-Tahar and Akram Moaiy’d Kalaf – said:
“Like thousands of other Iraqi refugees, we are in an increasingly desperate situation. We have no life here but face death if we return to Iraq.
“We urge the UK government: do not abandon us. We ask you not to betray our belief in your promises, but to do what is in your government’s power to help us and other refugees who have fled Iraq in fear for their lives”
In an open letter released today, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the British Refugee Council call on Mr. Blair to take three steps to alleviate the increasingly severe humanitarian crisis:
Firstly, whilst the extra £6m in emergency relief announced by the Department for International Development on March 22nd is welcome, far more is needed. The agencies asked Mr. Blair to put in place a much more substantial package of support to the region, both directly and through UNHCR, which alone has appealed for 60 million dollars of assistance in 2007.
Secondly, the UK has done nothing to allow Iraqi refugees displaced by conflict the chance to resettle in the UK – including people who have shown great loyalty and service to the UK in Iraq. A significant number of former employees of the Ministry of Defence, the Foreign Office, and the Department for International Development have fled from Iraq in fear for their lives and are now stranded in Syria or Jordan.
Thirdly, at a time when the international community is calling on Iraq’s neighbours to keep their borders open to asylum seekers, the agencies said that it sends a contradictory signal for the UK government to be deporting Iraqis to their homeland. The forcible removal of Iraqis, even to those parts of Iraq which the UK considers to be safe, is a serious misallocation of resources and priorities in view of the current Iraqi refugee crisis.