Friday, 16 October 2009

Daytrip To Baghdad Anyone?

Despite all the secrecy surrounding the run up to the deportation flight to Baghdad yesterday, it appears that the UK authorities forgot to tell the Iraqi government they were coming. When the plane touched down in Iraq yesterday, only 10 of the deportees were allowed off the flight and the rest were forced to return to the UK at 4:30am today.

An expensive little daytrip one assumes, given that the 'Operation Rangat' Air Italy flight probably cost somewhere around £250,000, or £25,000 per successful deportee removed. Of course Lin Homer, chief executive of the UK Border Agency, sought to paint a slightly rosier picture, saying: "We are establishing a new route to southern Iraq and have successfully returned 10 Iraqis to the Baghdad area. This is an important first step for us."

Previous UK deportation flights to Iraq had been to the Kurdish Autonomous Region, claiming that it was a 'safe' destination, but the government have long sought to make flights to the rest of the country. Given that Sweden and Denmark have started to return Iraqi deportees to Baghdad, the UK authorities thought the could too. However, they have been condemned by the UNHCR. According to their London office "returns to central Iraq are premature. They could send the wrong signal to other countries, like Syria and Jordan, which have large numbers of refugees and could trigger a destabilising wave of returns." Never mind the constant string of bomb attacks and kidnappings.

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