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Monday, February 19, 2007


The UK is failing to take its share of responsibility for the refugee crisis facing Iraq said Amnesty International today, ahead of the government'squarterly asylum statistics.

While the USA has agreed to take refugees from Iraq's overburdened neighbouring countries and the EU is discussing the situation of Iraqi refugees and its response to the current crisis, theUK is returning people to northern Iraq despite the ongoing insecurity.

Upto 38 Iraqis were forcibly returned from the UK to northern Iraq on Monday12 February.

In a letter to UK Home Secretary John Reid, Amnesty International iscalling on the UK to stop forced returns to Iraq immediately, and to put inplace a resettlement scheme like that announced by the USA.

The letter also highlights the plight of Iraqis at the end of the UK asylum process whocannot be returned to areas like Baghdad, who are forced intodestitution when they are denied support from the UK authorities.The USA last week announced that it would take in 7,000 refugees fromIraq under a UN-sponsored 'resettlement scheme'.

Other countries have alsoplayed their part: Sweden granted 2,330 Iraqis refugee status in 2005 aloneand other European countries such as Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland andNorway are not returning Iraqi asylum seekers.

The bulk of refugees are taken by neighbouring countries, however: Syria has received a millionIraqi refugees and Jordan over 800,000.By contrast, the latest available statistics show fewer than 600 asylumapplications to the UK from Iraqis in 2006, with the vast majority ofclaims refused.

Amnesty International UK Refugee Programme Director Jan Shaw said:"While other countries are helping Iraqi people fleeing terror andviolence, the UK is returning them to an uncertain fate - a truly shamefulsituation.

"The bloodshed in Iraq is causing people to flee for their lives andthe international community has a responsibility to offer them a safehaven.

"The UK should consider a resettlement scheme for Iraqi refugees aspart ofa responsibility-sharing approach - not turn its back on desperate andterrified people."