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Iraq: UNHCR recommends continuation of ban on forced returns

Briefing notes

Iraq: UNHCR recommends continuation of ban on forced returns

12 August 2003

UNHCR recommends that states maintain a ban on forced returns to Iraq, including of rejected asylum seekers, and that no returns should be promoted at this time. We are also urging states to refrain from returning Iraqi asylum seekers to countries in the region that they might have transited or visited.

The advice follows similar recommendations on 7 and 20 March and on 26 June. We recommend that temporary forms of protection be granted to Iraqis, including to newly arrived asylum seekers. States should be aware that any continuing deterioration of physical and material safety may still lead to forced displacements in Iraq. These recommendations follow the recent missions to Iraq by High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers and his Special Envoy.

We have advised those governments that may wish to resume individual processing of asylum claims that, while we are not encouraging such decisions, states should be mindful of potential persecution emanating from non-state agents, given the lack of effective national protection in Iraq.

At the same time, we have advised our offices in the region to make arrangements to help those Iraqi who are keen to go back, taking into account the position of the Coalition Provisional Authority that returns take place in a gradual and orderly manner.

Meanwhile a second convoy from Saudi Arabia's Rafha refugee camp, that was due to enter Iraq yesterday, has been delayed due to the recent protests in Basra. The returning refugees are currently waiting at a pilgrimage camp at Ar Raq'i, near the Kuwaiti border, and we expect this convoy to cross into Iraq on 16 August. A third convoy should leave Rafha on schedule and enter Iraq on 20 August. There are nearly 5,000 refugees in Rafha camp.