Saturday, October 17, 2009

IRAQ refugees refused by IRAQ

Iraqi asylum seekers sent back to Baghdad by the UK government have been refused re-entry to their homeland, and flown back to Britain.

The flight, carrying about 40 asylum seekers, landed in Baghdad on Thursday. Ten were admitted but the rest were turned away and have now arrived back.

Human rights group Refugee and Migrant Justice said this was "unprecedented".

The Home Office said it was working with the Iraqi government to iron out issues that caused some to be returned.

The reason for their return, it said, was a matter for the Iraqi authorities.

It is understood that about 80 escorts were also aboard the government-chartered flight.

The asylum seekers are now at Brook House detention centre near Gatwick airport where they are being given legal advice, according to a Refugee and Migrant Justice spokeswoman.

She said: "One would have expected with such a high profile remove, the Home Office would have sorted this out with the Iraqi authorities.

"For such a high profile group to be returned is unprecedented."

She added that the reason for the Iraqi authorities turning away some of the group was unclear, but suggested it may have been that certain documents were not in order.

The government's plan to send the group back to Baghdad, where just this week at least eight were killed in attacks on a market in north-west Baghdad, met with criticism from human rights group.

There have been no returns to Iraq since 2008 and this would have been the first return to the capital city since the start of the Iraq war in 2003.

Political and sectarian violence has diminished in Iraq since 2005-07 levels, but lawlessness remains a problem, and there has been a recent spike in violent incidents.

Enforced route

Lin Homer, chief executive of the UK Border Agency, said: "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.

"We are working closely with the Iraq government to iron out the issues which lead to some of the returnees being sent back, and expect to carry out another flight in the future.

"Having an enforced route for returns is an important part of our overall approach; however the government prefers the majority of returnees to leave voluntarily."

She said more than 2,500 people have chosen to return to Iraq under the Assisted Voluntary Return Programme in the past three years and that was expected to continue.

The Home Office said it has no estimates of the current number of failed Iraqi asylum seekers in the UK, but about 1,000 had returned to northern Iraq last year, either through enforced deportation or voluntarily.


A white US justice of the peace has been criticised for refusing to issue marriage licences to mixed-race couples.

Keith Bardwell, of Tangipahoa Parish in Louisiana, denied racism but said mixed-race children were not readily accepted by their parents' communities.

A couple he refused to marry are considering filing a complaint about him to the US Justice Department.

Mr Bardwell said he had often conducted the weddings of his black friends.

'No integration'

Mr Bardwell, who has worked in the role for 34 years, said that in his experience most interracial marriages did not last very long and estimated that he had refused applications to four couples in the past two-and-a-half years.

He said he had "piles and piles of black friends" but just did not believe in "mixing the races".

"They come to my home, I marry them, they use my bathroom. I treat them just like everyone else," he said.

He said he had discussed the issue with both black and white people before making his decision.

"There is a problem with both groups accepting a child from such a marriage," he said "I think those children suffer and I won't help put them through it."

Mr Bardwell added that he checked the race of the couple in question, 30-year-old Beth Humphrey and 32-year-old Terence McKay, when they first phoned him requesting a marriage licence.

Ms Humphrey, who is white, said that when she phoned Mr Bardwell on 6 October to discuss getting a marriage licence signed his wife told her about his stance.

Mrs Bardwell recommended that the couple see another justice of the peace, who did agree to marry them.

Ms Humphrey said she had not expected such comments "in this day and age" and that she was looking forward to having children with her husband.

American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana attorney Katie Schwartzmann said that her organisation had requested an investigation into Mr Bardwell, describing the case as one of "bigotry".

She said the Supreme Court ruled in 1967 "that the government cannot tell people who they can and cannot marry" and that Mr Bardwell had knowingly broken the law.

However, Mr Bardwell denied mistreating anyone and said if he oversaw one mixed-race marriage, then he would have to continue to do it for everyone.

He said: "I try to treat everyone equally."


The UN Human Rights Council has backed a report into the Israeli offensive in Gaza that accuses both Israel and Palestinian militants of war crimes.

The report by Richard Goldstone calls for credible investigations by Israel and Hamas, and suggests international war crimes prosecutions if they do not.

Twenty-five countries voted for the resolution, while six were against.

Both Israel and the US opposed official endorsement of the report, saying it would set back Middle East peace hopes.

The Palestinian Authority initially backed deferring a vote, but changed its position after domestic criticism.

Palestinians and human rights groups say more than 1,400 Gazans were killed in the 22-day conflict that ended in January, but Israel puts the figure at 1,166.

Thirteen Israelis, including three civilians, were killed.

'Culture of impunity'

Before the vote in Geneva - in which 11 countries abstained and five others, including the UK and France, chose not to vote - the Palestinian Authority's representative argued that the matter was simply about respect for the rule of law.

The UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, meanwhile insisted that now was the time to end the "culture of impunity" which continues to prevail in Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

In contrast, the Israeli government had lobbied intensively against the resolution, saying the Goldstone report was biased against Israel and removed the right of nations to defend themselves against terrorists.

It also complained that the vote was not simply on the Goldstone report, but on a Palestinian-backed resolution that criticised Israel and ignored Hamas. The resolution also made references to recent Israeli actions East Jerusalem that were not in the document.

The US deputy representative in Geneva agreed, saying that the resolution's approach and "sweeping conclusions of law" made the prospect of a meaningful Middle East peace process more difficult.


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posted by u2r2h at 7:05 AM


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