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Iraqi asylum seekers: UNHCR urges continued temporary protection until further notice

Briefing notes

Iraqi asylum seekers: UNHCR urges continued temporary protection until further notice

14 November 2003

We have advised states to continue a ban on forced returns to Iraq, including of rejected asylum seekers, until further notice. We have also recommended that temporary forms of protection should continue to be granted to Iraqis abroad, including to newly arrived asylum seekers. We announced measures, intended to protect Iraqis outside their homeland, in March 2002 in the run-up to the recent conflict.

The situation in Iraq remains volatile, with an absence of law and order in many parts of the country. The provision of basic services remains irregular, and there is a high rate of unemployment and a severe housing shortage.

We are recommending states that have resumed or intend to resume the processing of asylum claims to take into consideration compelling reasons for non-return of rejected asylum seekers due to both atrocious forms of past persecution, as well as the possibility of persecution by non-state agents currently active in Iraq.

The humanitarian situation is also an important consideration. A majority of Iraq's population remains dependent upon food aid, medical supplies and other items long distributed under the UN Oil-for-Food Programme. This aid network is shortly due to be phased into a new Iraqi-led structure, creating further uncertainty for many Iraqis during this unstable period.

The evacuation of all international UN staff from Baghdad has significantly curtailed our ability to monitor returns and undertake reintegration activities. For these reasons as well as the volatile security environment and uncertain humanitarian situation inside Iraq, we believe that returns should not be promoted at this time. UNHCR recognizes the right of Iraqis to return to Iraq, and while not promoting repatriation, we assist, as and where feasible, those who wish to return on a voluntary basis despite the currently prevailing conditions.