UNHCR reiterates concern about involuntary returns to Iraq amid violence

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic to whom quoted text may be attributed at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR is shocked and saddened by the recent bombings and continued violence in Iraq which have left hundreds dead and wounded this week.

Despite the efforts of the authorities, the security situation remains precarious. For this reason UNHCR's guidelines on Iraqis (last revised in April 2009) should continue to be applied and countries need to refrain from forcibly returning Iraqis originating from the region of Central Iraq back to those governorates deemed to be unsafe, namely - Baghdad, Ninewa, Salah al Din, Diyala, Tameem (Kirkuk).

In our guidelines issued last April, we noted that in view of the serious human rights violations and continuing security incidents throughout Iraq, most predominantly in the central governorates, asylum-seekers from these governorates should be considered to be in need of international protection. UNHCR therefore advises against involuntary returns to Iraq of persons originating from Central Iraq until there is a substantial improvement in the security and human rights situation in the country.

Concerning asylum-seekers from the three northern governorates, as well as those from the southern governorates and Al Anbar, UNHCR recommends that their protection needs are assessed on an individual basis.

While the number of security incidents has reduced many groups continue to face significant threats with UNHCR offices reporting that the numbers of Iraqi refugees returning are being offset by new arrivals.