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UNHCR protests Turkish refoulement of recognised Iraqi refugee

Briefing notes

UNHCR protests Turkish refoulement of recognised Iraqi refugee

13 March 2007

UNHCR deeply regrets the refoulement by Turkey of an Iraqi refugee on March 3. The individual, who comes from central Iraq, had been accorded refugee status by UNHCR and had been issued with the relevant documentation on February 13.

On February 20, upon learning that a deportation order had been given to the refugee, UNHCR wrote to the Turkish authorities, reiterating UNHCR's position as reflected in its advisory to governments that Iraqis from southern and central Iraq 'should be favourably considered as refugees under the 1951 Convention, given the high prevalence of serious human rights violations related to the grounds of the 1951 Convention.' In that advisory, UNHCR calls upon states not to forcibly return any Iraqi from southern and central Iraq.

UNHCR urged the government of Turkey to allow the refugee to remain in Turkey. Regretfully, the government did not respond to our letter or other attempts to communicate with them on this case.

UNHCR appeals to the Turkish authorities to refrain from any such deportations and to all governments in the region to keep their borders open for Iraqis fleeing persecution.

UNHCR estimates that some 4 million Iraqis have fled their homes fearing generalised violence and targeted persecution. Of these, 1.9 million Iraqis are still living in displacement inside Iraq, while some 2 million have fled the country and sought refuge in the neighbouring countries such as Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon and Turkey.

As of January 1, UNHCR Turkey had registered 2,719 Iraqi refugees, most of whom are living in Istanbul and in provincial cities in Central Anatolia where the authorities assign refugees and asylum-seekers to reside. UNHCR believes that the actual number of Iraqis in Turkey may be much higher.