21.07.2007

Europe continues to shirk its responsibility Every day more than 100 civilians lose their life in Iraq. According to the UN, one out of eight Iraqi is on the run by now. While the situation of Iraqi refugees in the region is becoming increasingly critical, almost all European countries continue to shirk their responsibility to

Europe continues to shirk its responsibility

Every day more than 100 civilians lose their life in Iraq. According to the UN, one out of eight Iraqi is on the run by now. While the situation of Iraqi refugees in the region is becoming increasingly critical, almost all European countries continue to shirk their responsibility to protect these people. Germany does not help actively either. On the contrary, everything possible is done to prevent Iraqi refugees from entering the country, to withdraw granted rights and to prepare deportations to Iraq.

The state of human rights in Iraq

The alliance led by the USA started their war against Iraq in 2003. Today, Iraq has disintegrated into a civil war. UNHCR has noted that large parts of the population profess their commitment to strict Islamic values, which in turn means that the situation of the women is steadily deteriorating.

The supply situation is precarious. High unemployment and unsatisfactory infrastructure mean that two out of three Iraqis depend on food rations. Twenty three per cent of the children are chronically undernourished. About 70 per cent of the Iraqi population do not have access to an adequate supply of drinking water.

Another hazard is the affiliation to certain ethnic and religious groups. Minorities like Christians and Mandaeans are persecuted. Sunni militants are killing women wearing trousers and men wearing shorts. Rival Shiite militias are fighting fiercely for control of oil fields. Today, Iraq seems to be further away from being a peaceful and free country than ever.

Last resort flight

UNHCR estimates that more than two millions people have fled Iraq since the beginning of the war four years ago. Another 1,9 million are internally displaced, exiles in their own country. Refugees and exiles are to be found in almost all social groups. The Christian minority is disappearing particularly fast. Most often the escape route ends (for the moment, at least) in countries neighbouring Iraq, not in well-to-do Europe.

Iraqi refugees in Europe

Only precious few of the millions of Iraq refugees have the strength and the means to fight their way to Europe. In 2006 about 20,000 Iraqi refugees applied for asylum in the EU countries. Only one out of ten refugees from Iraq is granted protection status in the EU.

The number of Iraqi refugees in EU countries is marginal. In 2006 there were 2,800 in the Netherlands, 2,100 in Germany, 1,400 in Greece, 1,300 in Great Britain. Sweden with its only 9 million inhabitants has taken in 9,000 refugees – almost half of the Iraqis looking for protection in Europe.

The EU parliament has called for tangible support for refugee protection inside and outside Iraq. Among other things, the parliament has demanded refugee status for Iraqi refugees and contributions for the intake of refugees. But the European Home Secretaries continue to ignore these demands. They have decided on financial help of a mere 18 million euros for countries taking in Iraq refugees.

No protection in Germany

So far Germany has not come forward to offer shelter to Iraqi refugees either. In 2006, only 2,117 Iraqi refugees managed to enter the country and apply for asylum. In dealing with people from Iraq seeking protection Germany plays a particularly infamous role. In that very same year 2006, only 189 Iraqi were acknowledged as refugees or were granted protection from deportation for humanitarian reasons.

What’s more, people who have been living here for years – acknowledged refugees with a residence permit – have been systematically stripped of their rights. In 2006 4,400 revocation procedures were started by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), aiming to deprive Iraqi refugees of their refugee status. These revocation procedures ­affect more than 18,000 people. According to Germany, there is no persecution in Iraq after Saddam Hussein’s fall which might be relevant to asylum. The situation in Iraq is far from being stable as provided for in the Geneva refugee convention, however. The German revocation practice is unique in Europe. People who are already integrated into German society are plunged into uncertainty and put on a waiting list for deportation.

Deportations to Iraq?

About 14,000 Iraqi are subject to deportation from Germany. Due to a lack of air connections and to negotiations on return, Germany has not yet executed deportations on a large scale. Still, the Home Secretaries of the German federal states have attempted to deport Iraqi refugees into North Iraq. As of now, ‘offenders’ and so-called ‘security risks’ are due for deportation, although these categories are rather questionable. For example, someone leaving his county without permission or sending money back home to their families in spite of the economic embargo may become an ‘offender’. Over and above problematic individual cases, the Home Secretaries are further striving to deport many Iraqi refugees into the war zone. During their meeting in November 2006 they confirmed their aim “to expand repatriations to Iraq as soon as possible”.

Result

Iraq is burning, millions of refugees are on the road inside and outside the country – and Germany and most EU countries try to refuse or withdraw protection with political and legal means. The European and particularly the German policy regarding Iraqi refugees contradicts international law and is a disgrace. The countries neighbouring Iraq are forced to deal with the problem. Instead of contributing to the rescue of people from the war zone those in charge are trying to deport people to that very same region and are treating refugees like troublesome petitioners.

UNHCR, the relief organizations working in Iraq and the EU parliament support the refugees from Iraq and have urgently called for help.

Together with the European Refugee Council, Pro Asyl asks the European countries and particularly Germany to no longer deprive Iraq refugees of their rights but to help them jointly and in solidarity.