European governments forcibly return asylum seekers to Iraq

Today 60 Iraqis were forcibly removed from the United Kingdom, Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands. They had applied for asylum and were denied. Ten Iraqis who were in the UK, 28 in Sweden and the rest of the Iraqis were flown today to Baghdad, and more are scheduled to be returned to Iraq next Wednesday.

The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR said that the Iraqis who are forcibly returned to Iraq are at grave risk, but Matthew Coats, head of immigration at the UK Border Agency, said “We are determined to remove those with no right to be in the UK,” according to BBC News.

About 2.7 million Iraqis are internally displaced, 1.5 are refugees in neighboring countries, and more are scattered in Europe and other parts of the world where they face being forcibly returned to Iraq.

The human rights situation in Iraq remains precarious, with suicide bombings, kidnappings, violence by militias and other armed forces taking place in most parts of Iraq every month.

Please join Amnesty International in calling on the British, Swedish, Norwegian and Netherlands governments to stop the forcible return of Iraqis.

Sri Lanka: while day passes are good, freedom would be better

There was some news this week regarding the internally displaced civilians in northern Sri Lanka.  Amnesty International has been campaigning for the civilians to be allowed freedom of movement; currently, most of them have been held in overcrowded camps which they are not permitted to leave, until the Sri Lankan government has completed a screening process to determine whether any of the civilians have links to the Tamil Tigers.  (For background on this story, see our Sri Lanka page.)  This past Monday in Geneva, the Sri Lankan Minister of Disaster Management and Human Rights told the Executive Committee of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees this past Monday that:

“The authorities in charge of maintaining the camps have also put in place a system of day-passes whereby IDPs [internally displaced persons] who need to attend to specific wants, ranging from attending a family wedding to visiting their bank in a nearby town, can leave the camps for a limited period of time.”

This was the first I’d heard of a day-pass system.  I think it’s a welcome development.  However, it doesn’t substitute for the freedom of movement the displaced civilians are entitled to.  The Sri Lankan government should immediately allow the displaced civilians to leave the camps if they wish.  Unlock the camps now!