The Minister for Immigration, Asylum and Nationality, Tony Mc Nulty, has indicated that the 21 Iraqi nationals currently in detention will be released on bail providing there was no risk of them absconding.
The 21 men—mainly Iraqi Kurds—were being detained pending forced removal to Iraq. The Minister indicated that “operational issues had developed” which would mean that the Iraqis’ removal would not be able to happen within a “reasonable time-frame”. The Iraqi nationals will now be released from detention on bail so long as there is no threat of absconding and that they can meet the necessary conditions and sureties required.
The government’s change of heart was made clear in a letter from Mr McNulty to the Liberal Democrat peer Lord Avebury who had written to the Minister about the the plight of the Iraqis, who have been detained since August. The government had said that it was going to start forcibly remove Iraqis to the Kurdish controlled regions of North Iraq, which they claimed were now safe.
The move was challenged by the UNHCR, Refugee Council and many Iraqi groups. The policy was called into question at the end of August when Justice Collins said it would be “improper,” and possibly unlawful to enforce the removal of asylum seekers to Iraq until after a hearing in the High Court.