Amnesty urges open door policy for Iraqis

IRELAND should keep its doors open to asylum seekers trying to escape the horrors of Iraq, Amnesty International has urged.

The human rights group called on all European Governments and Middle Eastern states to give Iraqis a sympathetic hearing, despite claims by the United States that Iraq is now stable.

Iraq barely registered on the list of countries producing asylum seekers who arrived in Ireland up until the US invasion in 2003, but in 2006 one in 20 of all asylum applicants here was Iraqi.

Since then 600 Iraqis have applied for asylum, making them second only to Nigerians hoping to start a new life here.

Their chances are not good, however. A report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) found just one in three Iraqis who applied here in 2005 was granted refugee status and less than one in four in 2006.

Some cases are yet to be processed and others are under appeal, so the success rate may rise, but Amnesty expressed concern that the West and Iraq’s neighbours are turning their backs on Iraqis, an estimated two million of whom are believed to now be refugees.

Its report Rhetoric and Reality — the Iraqi refugee crisis says: “Despite widespread outrage at the poor treatment of Iraqi asylum seekers and refugees outside the region, the treatment of Iraqis seeking international protection has failed to improve. In fact, it has taken a sharp turn for the worse.”

Much of the criticism is directed at Iraq’s immediate neighbours, particularly

Syria and Jordan, which have the greatest number of refugees, and European nations like Britain, which is accused of helping create the crisis in Iraq but not being prepared to deal with the consequences on its own doorstep.

The report says forced deportations and encouraged “voluntary” returns of Iraqis to Iraq are on the increase, despite the dangers that continue to face Iraqis in their home country.

Noeleen Hartigan of Amnesty’s Ireland section said its research showed many Iraqis returning home faced destitution, child labour and gender violence alongside the obvious dangers.

“We would urge the Irish Government to take this into account when dealing with asylum applicants from Iraq.”

Amnesty also asked safe countries to be more open to resettlement programmes organised by UNHCR. In the last year, 100 Burmese refugees were brought here under such a programme.


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