The first mass deportation flight to Southern Iraq is expected later this week. Previously the destination of flights to Iraq was Kirkuk in the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan region, which the British government had considered safe despite the numerous regular car and suicide bombings, extra-judicial killings and the routine 'disappearances' of returnees by various governmental paramilitary forces.
Now the Home Office seem to have declared the rest of Iraq safe, at least for anybody other than UK citizens: "We advise against all travel to Baghdad and its surrounding area, the provinces of Basra, Maysan, Al Anbar, Salah Ad Din, Diyala, Wasit, Babil, Ninawa and At-Tamim (At-Tamim is often referred to as "Kirkuk Province"). We also advise against all but essential travel to the provinces of Al Qadisiyah, Muthanna, Najaf, Karbala, and Dhi Qar. Although there has been a decrease in the level of violence throughout Iraq the situation remains highly dangerous with a continuing high threat of terrorism throughout the country". [current Foreign Office travel advice]
In the Kurdish Region the Foreign Office say: "despite largely effective policies countering terrorism in the region, extremist Islamist terrorist groups including Al-Qaida in Iraq and Ansar al Islam have planned and carried out infrequent attacks in the past. A network of Iran-based Kurdish extremists, affiliated with Al-Qaida in Iraq mount occasional cross-border attacks. The threat of terrorism and kidnap remains possible. Terrorist operations, including in the cities of Erbil and Sulaymaniyah, have generally been conducted against Kurdistan Regional Government targets. Outside the Kurdistan Region, the security situation in northern Iraq remains highly dangerous and volatile. In Kirkuk and Mosul there are still a number of terrorist attacks, including suicide bomb attacks, vehicle bombs, and shootings, which have led to many innocent bystanders being killed." Doesn't sound particularly safe to us.
Approximately 30 people are currently being held in immigration detention centres around London according to the International Federation of Iraqi Refugees and have been given deportation tickets informing them they will be removed to Iraq sometime this week. It is UK Border Agency policy not release the exact time or date to detainees or their legal representatives. It is claimed that this is because of the need to prevent disruption of these highly expensive charter flights but the practical effect is to prevent solicitors from submitting last-minute appeals as all detainees are held incommunicado of the day of the deportation.
Most deportations take place with deportees handcuffed between two private security guards and are carried out under threat of force, with any form of resistance being regularly met by disproportionate force. These factors, along with the inadequate provision of medical attention for those subjected to the use of force, have been criticised in a recent Inspectorate of Prisons thematic review.
In addition to the private security companies such as G4S/GSL and SERCO, many other companies are coming to rely on the deportation industry to maintain their profitability during the current economic downturn. This is especially true of some of the smaller airlines like Hamburg International and Czech Airlines (although the larger airlines like Air France and Virgin are more than happy to cash in as well) and even small bus firms like WH Tours and Woodcock coaches have come to rely on the steady stream of deportees being transported to airports around the country. And it is a very lucrative industry, the UKBA spent £8,227,553 on 66 deportation charter flights in the financial year 2008-9, almost double the usual amount spent in previous years.
Things you can do to help stop this flight:
Contact your local MP and ask them to put pressure on the UK Border Agency to cancel the deportation. You can find your local MP at: http://findyourmp.parliament.uk
Contact the UKBA directly to demand the deportation be cancelled:
Contact the minister for borders and immigration Phil Woolas:
House of Commons phone number: 020 7219 1149
House of Commons fax number: 020 7219 0992
Constituency phone number: 0161 624 4248
Constituency fax number: 0161 626 8572