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Friday, June 04, 2010

Iraqi LGBT extremely concerned by new plans for UK removals of refugees to Iraq

Asylum seekers from Iraq facing deportation from Britain. Left to right: Ali Namiq, Rahman Rasoul, anonymous refugee, Sirajadin Hosmadin Bahadin. Photograph: Sean Smith for the Guardian

Press statement

London, 4 June 2010 - The Iraqi LGBT group has today expressed its 'deep concern' about reports that the British Home Office is planning to return 100 Iraqi refugees to Baghdad Wednesday 9 June - despite a recent UK report saying this was not safe.

"This group will certainly contain deeply closeted gay people and they will be at extreme risk of torture and murder in Baghdad," said Group leader Ali Hili.

Iraqi LGBT say that the Iraqi government provide no security for gays - infact the opposite as its members have reported the involvement of both police and Interior Ministry forces in handing over gay people to militias with either their tortured bodies being subsequently discovered or them disappearing.

The group has just released new testimony about Iraqi government complicity on YouTube, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Ts3PedvPrs

Said Hili, "the Western media is not reporting the level of violence continuing in Baghdad. Bombings and assassinations continue to happen almost daily - this is why the United Nations said it is unsafe to remove refugees to that city. The lack of reporting means that the Home Office think they can get away with this inhuman action."

Amnesty International said in April that there was evidence that members of the security forces and other authorities were encouraging the targeting of people suspected to be gay.

The report added that killers of gay men could find protection under the law, as it offers lenient sentences for those committing crimes with an “honourable motive”.

"We condemn the proposed removals by the British government and the Iraqi government's complicity. Many of these people are opponents of the regime and if returned will end up being killed."

It has been reported by the International Federation of Iraqi Refugees (IFIR) that the 100 refugees have been screened by UK Border Agency 'ambassadors' pretending to be Iraqi embassy representatives at a detention centre. Refugees have reported being threatened by those 'interviewing' them.

"We are very familiar with such threats," said Ali. "I and other members of our group in exile have faced this, as have our family members. Many of our members have been murdered in Iraq and we have had safe houses invaded and people massacred. If these people are removed many of them will also be murdered."

Iraqi LGBT has cataloged 738 murders in the past five years.

The group has backed the call by the IFIR for the British government to end what IFIR calls "this inhuman policy" of refugee removals to Iraq.

Notes for editors

1. Iraqi LGBT is a human rights organisation with members inside Iraq and in exile. It provides safe houses for gays, lesbians and transgender people and has helped people escape into exile.

2. The International Federation of Iraqi Refugees campaigns for the rights of Iraqi refugees and against forcible deportations and detention.  The Coalition to Stop Deportations to Iraq campaigns against the forcible deportation and detention of Iraqi refugees.

3. The flight will be the first to Iraq since the 14th October, when ten people were deported to Baghdad and the thirty-three others on the plane were sent back by the Iraqi authorities.
See www.csdiraq.com for more information

4. At least four million Iraqis have been forced to flee either to another part of Iraq or abroad since the war began in 2003

5. According to Home Office figures, 632 people were forcibly deported to the KRG region in the north between 2005 and 2008. The International Federation of Iraqi Refugees estimates that the figure, with the monthly charter flights deporting 50 people at a time since the beginning of 2009, currently stands at approximately 900.

6. Iraqi LGBT has worked with and supported the work of IFIR for several years.