Detroit judge halts deportation of Iraqi Christians

Iraqis and supporters rally outside the Theodore Levin United States Courthouse in Detroit, Michigan, on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Updated 23 June 2017
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Detroit judge halts deportation of Iraqi Christians

DETROIT: A judge on Thursday temporarily halted the deportation of more than 100 Iraqi Christians living in the Detroit area who fear torture and possible death if sent back to Iraq.
US District Judge Mark Goldsmith said in a written order that deportation is halted for 14 days while he decides if his court has jurisdiction to hear their plight.
The Justice Department had argued that the detainees, including many who were recently rounded up after decades in the US, must go to immigration court to try to remain in the US, not US District Court. But the American Civil Liberties Union said they might be deported before an immigration judge can consider their requests to stay.
Goldsmith heard arguments Wednesday. He said he needs more time to consider complex legal issues.
Potential physical harm “far outweighs any conceivable interest the government might have in the immediate enforcement of the removal orders before this court can clarify whether it has jurisdiction to grant relief to petitioners on the merits of their claims,” Goldsmith said.
Most of the 114 Iraqis are Chaldean Christians, but some are Shiite Muslims and converts to Christianity. They were arrested on or about June 11 and the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement said all have criminal convictions.
Iraq recently agreed to accept Iraqi nationals subject to removal from the US.
“The court took a life-saving action by blocking our clients from being immediately sent back to Iraq,” Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said in a release. “They should have a chance to show that their lives are in jeopardy if forced to return.”
Besides the 114 arrested in the Detroit area, 85 other Iraqi nationals were arrested elsewhere in the country, according to ICE. As of April 17, there were 1,444 Iraqi nationals with final orders of removal from the US Eight already have been returned to Iraq.
The detainees include Louis Akrawi, who served more than 20 years in Michigan prisons for second-degree murder. He was accused of arranging a shooting that killed an innocent bystander in 1993.
“He’s 69 years old, he has two artificial knees, and he needs surgery on both eyes. Sending him back to Iraq is unfair,” his son, Victor Akrawi, told The Detroit News.


UN Security Council meets over Syria in remote Swedish farmhouse

Updated 3 min 45 sec ago
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UN Security Council meets over Syria in remote Swedish farmhouse

BACKARA- SWEDEN: The UN Security Council met in a secluded farmhouse on the southern tip of Sweden on Saturday in a bid to overcome deep divisions over how to end the war in Syria.
In a first for the Council, which normally holds its annual brainstorming session in upstate New York, the 15 ambassadors and Secretary-General Antonio Guterres were this year invited to hold an informal meeting in Backakra by Sweden, a non-permanent member of the body.
The United Nations’ special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, is expected on Sunday.
The farmhouse is the summer residence of Dag Hammarskjold, the United Nations’ second secretary-general who died in a plane crash in Africa in 1961.
Situated in the heart of a nature reserve, just a stone’s throw from the Baltic Sea, the farmhouse consists of four buildings around a courtyard and has been completely renovated in recent years.
The southern wing serves as the summer residence for the Swedish Academy which awards the Nobel Literature Prize.
With both New York and Damascus thousands of kilometers away, the Council is exploring “the means to strengthen and make more effective United Nations peacekeeping missions,” the Swedish government said.
Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom welcomed the decision to hold the meeting in Sweden, “where there is a long tradition of peaceful conflict prevention and resolution.”
But as she arrived in Backakra on Saturday morning she warned against being too hopeful the Syrian issue would be resolved over the weekend.
“Hopefully there will be some new ideas on the table and I think it’ll be on those tracks: the humanitarian situation, the chemical weapons,” she said.
But “not even the beautiful settings like these can solve all the problems,” the minister added.
The country’s deputy UN Ambassador Carl Skau said the idea was to foster dialogue and “relaunch momentum” with “humility and patience,” a week after the air strikes by France, Britain and the United States against the Syrian regime.
“It’s important for the council’s credibility,” Skau told reporters in New York.
While the war in Syria is not the only topic of the deliberations, it is high up on the agenda because it was an issue that divided council members deeply in recent months.
Skau said Backakra was a “fitting and inspiring venue” to reconnect with the power of diplomacy.
“It’s a place to roll up our sleeves, take off our jackets and ties and come up with some real and meaningful ways forward,” he said.