The Refugee Council joined others in protest all around the country against pending Iraqi removals. The protests on Thursday and Friday came as speculation continued to mount that forced returns would begin as early as Bank Holiday Sunday, 29 August.
The London protest, organised by the International Federation of Iraqi Refugees, took place on Friday, 26 August, lasted two hours and was attended by over 60 people. Other protests took place on Thursday, 25 August, in Manchester, Sheffield and Cardiff.
While the protest was taking place, lawyers were in the High Court on Friday, 26 August, trying to bring an injunction against the forced removal of a Kurdish-Iraqi asylum seeker, Abbas Amin. Although the Mr Justice Andrew Collins did not grant an order barring Abbas Amin’s removal, he said it would be “improper,” and possibly unlawful, to enforce the removal of asylum seekers to Iraq until a pending court of appeal ruling on the case was determined.
The planned deportation would have marked the beginning of a large scale removal programme. The High Court has again delivered a firm rebuff to the Government’s controversial policy. However, the government has said that it still plans to go ahead with forced removals.
Despite refugee groups and the UNHCR warning that the volatile situation in Iraq means that no-one should be forced home, the Home Office are insisting that some parts of Iraq are not as affected by insurgent action and are therefore safer. This goes against Foreign Office advice which has discouraged non- essential travel to Iraq for Britons and warns of an expected increase in attacks by insurgents.
Tim Finch, Director of Communications who attended the London protest, said:
“It is not just the Refugee Council that is saying the situation in Northern Iraq is not safe, international agencies like the UN and Amnesty are saying it, the main political parties in the Kurdish controlled area are saying it. The government seems to be putting meeting it’s target for removals above concerns for the safety of people – and that cannot be right.”
The Guardian reported that on Friday, 26 August, the London office of the UN high commissioner for refugees restated its opposition. “Iraq is still extremely unstable and dangerous,” it warned. “No part of Iraq can be considered safe, although … some areas are more stable than others. The UK government [should also] review its low recognition rate of Iraqi asylum seekers.”
The Times on Monday, 29 August, had a case study on an Iraqi failed asylum seeker facing deportation after four years in the UK. Mustafa Kadir, who has now gone on hunger strike, told the Times ” I hope one day I will get the chance to return home to Iraq but at the moment it is not safe for me.”