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Iraq: Continued Ban Forced Refugee Repatriations

Iraq: UN Refugee Agency Calls For Continued Ban On Forced Repatriations

Iraqi asylum seekers must not be repatriated from host countries even if their claims are rejected, the United Nations refugee agency reaffirmed today, citing the "alarming frequency" of violent attacks in Iraq.

Repeating similar recommendations issued to governments last year, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees ( http://www.unhcr.ch/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/home/+iwwBme3EjVewxwwwwnwwwwwwwhFqnN0bItFqnDni5zFqnN0bIAFqnN0bIDzmxwwwwwww1FqnN0bI/opendoc.htm UNHCR) said all Iraqi asylum seekers should continue to be granted some form of temporary protection.

Drawing attention to the generalized climate of instability and insecurity, the agency notes that security incidents, which "continue with alarming frequency," are increasingly targeted at Iraqis perceived to be supporting or collaborating with the United States-led Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA).

Such targets include policemen, religious and community leaders, national staff working for foreign organizations, as well Kurdish administrators in Northern Iraq. UNHCR also noted the potential for increased violence, given the persistence of extremist elements and tensions among Iraq's various ethnic and religious groups.

Compounding the security situation is a severe lack of housing, irregular provision of basic services, the absence of an effective judicial system or financial institutions, and an unemployment rate running as high as 70 per cent, the agency added.

Iraq's Minister of Displacement and Migration, Mohammed J. Khodair, has specifically requested that UNHCR urge host countries not to encourage or force refugees to return to Iraq until the situation has improved.

Even though some voluntary repatriation has taken place, mainly to southern Iraq from Iran and from Rafha Camp in Saudi Arabia, UNHCR stressed that it was not promoting voluntary returns yet.

"We are, however, continuing to facilitate - as far as we are able under present circumstances - the return of individuals who express a clear wish to repatriate," spokesman Kris Janowski told a briefing in Geneva.

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