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Britain Reportedly to Send Iraqi Asylum Seekers Back

November 18, 2005|From Reuters

LONDON — Britain plans to start flying failed Iraqi asylum seekers back to the Kurdish-controlled north of their home country Sunday, a broadcaster reported Thursday.

More than 20,000 Iraqis have applied for asylum in Britain during the last three years. The vast majority were rejected but allowed to stay because of the precarious situation in their homeland.

However, Channel 4 television said a leaked document showed the government had detained up to 15 failed asylum seekers and would proceed with forced repatriations.

"Those who are to be removed will be served notice of our intentions and they are entitled to seek legal advice about their circumstances. Removal is scheduled for the 20th of November," the document said.

A spokeswoman for the Home Office said it would not comment on operational matters, nor confirm any flight details. "If people don't leave voluntarily, we will enforce returns," she said, adding that repatriations would be considered on a case-by-case basis and only those not at risk of persecution or in need of aid would be sent home.

The northern provinces are widely seen as far safer than the capital, Baghdad, and central Iraq.

The tougher Home Office stance has sparked several demonstrations in Britain by Iraqis who have accused the government of being reckless and sending them home to persecution.

Channel 4 said the decision to send the Iraqis home followed a shift in position by the United Nations' refugee agency. It said in late September that it might be "feasible" for Iraqis to return to the three northern provinces.

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