The tragedy of refugees on the borders of Europe and in the Mediterranean Sea is a direct consequence of closing borders to people whose livelihoods and homes have been shattered by civil war, unrest and insecurity. The disaster facing refugees places a tremendous responsibility upon European governments. While the UK and other European governments talk about human rights, they have provided no realistic solution to the causes of the current wave of displacement and forced mass immigration. On the contrary, the UK government is detaining Iraqi refugees for indefinite periods under threat of forced deportation.The Home Office has already used force to deport many Iraqi refugees on Royal Jordanian Airlines, Turkish Airlines and Qatar Airways flights.
The UK Government is clearly undertaking these deportations with the Iraqi Government’s agreement and using Iraqi Government officials to support, legitimise and authorise the process. Some of the Iraqi asylum seekers detained in Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre after a recent raid have informed IFIR that they were interviewed by Iraqi officials. Following these interviews the Home Office cleared those asylum seekers for deportation. It is unacceptable that the UK Government has such an agreement with the Iraqi Government.
The UK Government’s policy on detention and deportation is further harming many Iraqi and Kurdish asylum seekers who have built a secure family life in the UK. Indefinite detention periods particularly affect these refugees’ mental health as most have in the past been victims of torture or experienced severe mental trauma.
According to the UNHCR’s Detention Guidelines victims of torture should not be detained and a maximum period of detention should be set in national legislation. Yet there is no such legislation in the UK.
In addition, Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) strictly prohibits torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. IFIR believes that the UK’s detention of victims of torture breaches Article 3. IFIR also believes that indefinite detention, inhuman conditions in detention centres and forcible deportation cause fear, anxiety and many other mental disorders among refugees and so breaches Article 3. For example, Aras Ismail, an Iraqi asylum seeker, was injured, handcuffed, hooded and put in an aircraft toilet for the duration of a deportation flight.
It is important to note that Iraq is still a war zone country and Iraqi refugees have had to escape where their lives are under threat. The majority of refugees from Iraq are the direct victims of the political and military involvement of the US and European countries and their support for nominally democratic but repressive regimes and political forces in the Middle East.
Iraq is politically and economically insecure and unsafe for Iraqi citizens. Following the referendum on independence for South Kurdistan, held on 25 September 2017, Iraq became even more complicated politically and socially. The hypocritical attitude of the UN, US and other western governments towards the rights of Kurdish people has motivated the Iraqi Government, backed by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard under the command and supervision of Qasim Sulaimani, to attack disputed areas. These attacks, including that on the major city of Kirkuk, caused hundreds of thousands of Kurdish people to flee their homes. States now run by these forces are taking no responsibility for the livelihoods of Iraqi citizens. Iraqi society is in a spiral of conflict between different religious, nationalist and Islamic groups. The deportation of Iraqi refugees from the UK puts their lives at risk and constitutes a breach of International Human Rights under the Refugee Convention 1951 of article 33(1).
One of the many examples of refugees who have preferred suicide to deportation is Ahmed, an Iraqi Kurdish refugee. Having lived in the UK for 15 years he was detained without reasonable grounds in the Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre. As a result of inhuman conditions at the Centre and inhuman treatment by officers Ahmed tried to hang himself. Research shows that in 2015 there were 393 recorded suicide attempts by immigration detainees.
There are also many examples of refugees who have been separated from their friends and families. The UK government is therefore violating Article 8 of the ECHR by not respecting the family life of refugees. Samir Mohammad is one example. He was detained without sufficient grounds and deported to Iraq after living in the UK for 17 years and settling in Sheffield with his British wife Anne Marie and their children Zahara and Soran.
Another fact that should be considered is that many deportees to Iraq and Kurdistan are unemployed. They have not been offered the opportunity to resume their previous jobs. Consequently they have become a burden on their families. These Iraqi citizens need help to reintegrate into society and restart their normal lives. The duty to meet this need rests with the Iraqi Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government.
The UK Government’s policy is putting profit before human rights and is complicit in human rights abuses. The International Federation of Iraqi Refugees (IFIR) is calling on the international community to stand against the UK’s detention and deportation policy because it harms the lives of Iraqi and Kurdish refugees. IFIR is an organisation dedicated to defending human rights. We see ourselves as part of a progressive and international movement. We fight for the rights of Iraqi refugees across the world and work to gain solidarity from human rights organisations worldwide. As part of that responsibility we are sending you this letter to ask you to stand with us. We ask you to condemn forced deportation by the UK Government when Iraq is in a state of war and the Iraqi people are still paying the price for the actions of the UK and US governments. We call on you to sign and share our petition, which can be accessed by the following link:
Please also support our campaign by writing to the UK’s Home Secretary asking her to:
· Immediately halt these deportations
· End the UK’s deportation agreement with the Iraqi Government
· Immediately release all Iraqi refugees held in detention in the UK
· Give all Iraqis in the UK refugee status.
The Rt Hon Amber Rudd MP
Secretary of State for the Home Department
2 Marsham Street
International Federation of Iraqi Refugees-IFIR
 Areeb Ullah, ‘Iraqi man ‘bound, hooded and locked in plane toilet’ during forced UK removal’ Middle East Eye 24 April 2017 ; Sophia Akram, ‘ Asylum seeker is gagged and locked in a toilet while sent back to a war zone’ The Canary 13 April 2017
 Liam O’Harwe, ‘Death in Detantion; Suicide attamts soar in the UK’ Al Jazeera 12 February 2017
 No-deportaions, ‘ IRCS ‘Self-Harm’ (Attempted Suicide) and those on ‘Self-Harm Watch’ (at risk of Suicide) 2015’