Several dozen Iraqis deported from Europe return to Baghdad despite safety fears

By Barbara Surk, AP
Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Group of Iraqis deported from Europe return home

BAGHDAD — Several dozen Iraqis who failed to gain asylum in Europe were returned to Iraq on Wednesday despite concerns the situation is still too dangerous, the U.N. refugee agency said.

Security has dramatically improved in the past years in Iraq, but UNHCR has urged governments not to force Iraqis who fled the country after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion to return, citing continued attacks and human rights violations in Baghdad and surrounding areas.

As the plane carrying Wednesday’s batch of the deportees landed at the Baghdad airport in the early afternoon, 10 of the passengers refused to disembark and had to be escorted off the aircraft by police, an Iraqi airport security official said.

The returnees did not resist the security personnel who boarded the plane, but told them they were not returning to Iraq voluntarily, added the official. He spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

He said all the deportees will be questioned by the police before being let into the country.

The plane had left earlier from Stockholm with 27 Iraqi deportees from Sweden, nine from Norway, four from the Netherlands and an unknown number from the United Kingdom, Sybella Wilkes, a UNHCR spokeswoman, told The AP. The Iraqi official said 56 deportees were returned Wednesday from several European countries.

Wilkes said in a phone interview that the governments participating in latest deportation — the fourth such known flight to the country in two months — provided the U.N. agency with very limited and late information.

“We don’t know who they (the deportees) are and which parts of Iraq they are returning to,” Wilkes said. “We’d like to be given information about the people aboard these flights well in advance so that we can determine that none of them is being returned into harm’s way.”

While the Kurdish autonomous region in northern Iraq and most of the south of the country have been relatively peaceful in the past, the U.N. agency considers Baghdad, Kirkuk and the northern provinces of Ninevah, Diyala and Salahuddin as unsafe for returns due to continued attacks, sectarian tensions and human rights violations.

Most of the 2 million Iraqi refugees are living without permanent homes in neighboring Syria and Jordan. The U.N. expressed concern that the European decision to deport Iraqis would send the wrong signal to those countries.

Iraqi authorities have encouraged people to return to their homeland, insisting Iraqi forces are able to protect them as U.S. forces leave.

Meanwhile, nine people were injured in two separate roadside bomb attacks Wednesday in eastern and central Baghdad, police and hospital officials in the capital said.

Associated Press Writer Malin Rising in Stockholm contributed to this report.

will not be displayed