From the International Federation of Iraqi Refugees, Sept. 17:
An open letter to Mr. Kofi Annan
United Nations Secretary-General
Re: Deportation of Kurdish asylum seekers from Britain
Dear Mr. Annan,
In violation of the Geneva Convention of 1951 and Human Rights Charter in regard to asylum seekers, the British government has forcibly deported 49 Kurdish asylum seekers to Iraqi Kurdistan.
On the night of November 21 2005, 15 Kurdish asylum seekers were flown handcuffed from London to Cyprus airport after being subjected to beating and humiliation. Later they were taken in a military airplane to Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan.
34 more asylum seekers were also maltreated and deported handcuffed from London to Iraqi Kurdistan in a military airplane on 5 September 2006. These were not prisoners of war or criminals but asylum seekers.
This is an extremely inhumane and racist step. It is a clear violation of their human rights and the right of people to safe asylum.
A few weeks prior to the war on Iraq, the UK government suspended all hearings of cases of Iraqi asylum seekers and later the Home Office started rejecting the cases of the Iraqi asylum seekers in numbers and cutting their social security benefits, evicting them from their accomodation. The measures of the British Home Office involved arresting and engineering the sacking by their employers of Kurdish workers in the city of Hull to force them to agree to their deportation. This happened while these asylum seekers were working peacefully and paying tax according to the law, integrating with British society and striving to support themselves and their families.
The UK government as a party that directly participates in the war and the occupation of Iraq is a major source of insecurity and chaos in Iraq. In the name of bringing democracy to Iraq, they have brought together heads of tribes, and ethnocentric and Islamic groups from whom nothing can be expected apart from reaction, igniting civil sectarian and ethnic war, depriving women and children of their rights, keeping people in poverty and stamping upon freedoms and civil and individual rights of people in Iraq.
The war that the UK government launched against the Iraqi people has claimed the lives of thousands of people, displaced thousands more and forced them to flee to the surrounding countries, and kept millions in a situation controlled by lack of security, deprivation and uncertainty.
Kurdistan is not much better than the other parts of Iraq. Under both the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and Kurdistan Democratic Party’s militia, this region is controlled by lawlessness, administrative and political corruption and oppression, prosecution of opponents, and shooting at peaceful demonstrations. As a result thousands of youth in Iraqi Kurdistan are forced to flee to surrounding countries or to European countries to seek a peaceful and humane life. Mass immigration is the direct outcome of the policy that the UK government has adopted in Iraq and therefore it is this government’s duty to recognise the Iraqi asylum seekers as refugees.
I have talked about the risk of deporting the Kurdish refugees in a few parliamentary meetings here in British and I have twice sent letters to Mr. Tony Blair and his answer was that they would refer this issue to the Home Office. The Home Office did not answer our letters.
Therefore, I request you to investigate and monitor the forcible deportation of these 49 asylum seekers whose lives are at risk in Iraqi Kurdistan. I request you intervene in this issue, take measures against the decision to deport the Iraqi refugees, and ask the UK government to stop this policy and immediately observe and meet the articles of the Geneva convention of 1951.
Along with a number of refugees’ organisations and members of parliament in Britain, we stand against the deportation of the Kurdish asylum seekers and therefore we request that you exert pressure on British government to:
1. Stop the policy of deporting the Iraqi asylum seekers and allow them to present and defend their cases. Lack of access to legal representation is a very significant problem, as is the difficulty faced by legal representatives in being able to put the true picture of conditions in Northern Iraq before a court.
2. Recognise the Iraq and Kurdish asylum seekers as refugees as they are victims of the war and lack of security in Iraq.
3. Stop all attacks on the asylum seekers including stripping them of social services like houses, unemployment benefit and the right to work.
4. Release all Kurdish refugees currently arrested in UK.
The situation of the Iraqi Kurdish refugees in Britain is very poor and they are left in uncertainty. The outcome of this situation will face you as well, as an international organ responsible for human rights. Therefore we ask you to play a role in halting the deportation of the Iraqi asylum seekers.
For International Federation of Iraqi Refugees
September 17, 2006