Iraq charter flight cancelled

October 2, 2011

A planned deportation flight to Iraq was halted on Tuesday night through an eleventh hour injunction in the High Court. Fifty Iraqis due to be deported had claimed that they would be subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment by the Iraqi authorities on arrival in Iraq. The High Court ordered that the 50 asylum-seekers should not be deported until the the allegations of mistreatment are considered by the court in November 2011, in a case called HM (Iraq). The injunction was obtained by Tori Sicher of the Immigration Advisory Service.

The Iraqis, who were held in detention centres in the London area, had been loaded onto buses to travel to the airport before the news came through that they would not be deported. The charter flight went ahead with nine Iraqis on board. It is believed that all had consented to return voluntarily.

It is considered unlikely that the UK will make further attempts to conduct enforced returns to Iraq until the test case is heard.

Several Iraqi asylum-seekers deported by the UK during 2010 have claimed that they were severely mistreated on arrival, due to their Kurdish ethnicity or family connections to the former Saddam Hussein regime. The asylum seekers facing deportation yesterday claimed in the High Court that they could face similar mistreatment.

It is considered unlikely that the UK will make further attempts to conduct enforced returns to Iraq until the test case is heard.

James Read of Detention Action said “We have spoken to many Iraqis over the last few weeks who were desperate not to be deported. Some of these described in vivid detail the torture they had experienced at the hands of the Iraqi authorities upon previous removal attempts. Several had British wives and children, having lived in the UK for many years. All feared that they would face torture if they were returned. We are delighted that the High Court has ordered that the evidence of previous mistreatment be properly considered before anyone is forced to return to Iraq.”

Since removal directions were issued a week ago, Detention Action has traced, obtained documentation and legal aid forms and referred to IAS 33 of the people due to be on the flight. Duncan Lewis and other solicitors represented a further 17 of their clients in the High Court. As a result, the great majority of those of the 67 men with removal directions who did not want to return were litigants in the High Court.

The High Court has granted a period of a week to trace the remaining 17 potential deportees and confirm which of them do not wish to return.

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