Iraq

UNHCR reiterates concern about involuntary returns to Iraq amid violence

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This is a summary of what was said by the UNHCR spokesperson at today's Palais des Nations press briefing in Geneva. Further information can be found on the UNHCR websites, www.unhcr.org and www.unhcr.fr, which should also be checked for regular media updates on non-briefing days.

UNHCR is shocked and saddened by the recent bombings and continued violence in Iraq which have left hundreds dead and wounded this week. Despite the efforts of the authorities, the security situation remains precarious. For this reason UNHCR's guidelines on Iraqis (last revised in April 2009) should continue to be applied and countries need to refrain from forcibly returning Iraqis originating from the region of Central Iraq back to those governorates deemed to be unsafe, namely - Baghdad, Ninewa, Salah al Din, Diyala, Tameem (Kirkuk).

In our guidelines issued last April, we noted that in view of the serious human rights violations and continuing security incidents throughout Iraq, most predominantly in the central governorates, asylum-seekers from these governorates should be considered to be in need of international protection. UNHCR therefore advises against involuntary returns to Iraq of persons originating from Central Iraq until there is a substantial improvement in the security and human rights situation in the country.

Concerning asylum-seekers from the three northern governorates, as well as those from the southern governorates and Al Anbar, UNHCR recommends that their protection needs are assessed on an individual basis.

While the number of security incidents has reduced many groups continue to face significant threats with UNHCR offices reporting that the numbers of Iraqi refugees returning are being offset by new arrivals.

For further information on this topic, please contact:

In Geneva: Jack Redden on mobile +41 79 249 3464

In Amman: Maha Sidky on mobile +962 79 69 081 97