LONDON: The UK is set to deport up to 30 Kurdish asylum seekers to Iraq on a single charter flight organized by the UK Home Office.
The mission to Irbil in Iraqi Kurdistan involves significant risk. Contractors overseeing the journey have received special training to tackle the “high threat of kidnapping from both Daesh and other terrorist groups.”
Some of the deportees have been settled in the UK for more than two decades, and will leave behind families and careers.
One man set to be deported on Tuesday’s flight told The Guardian newspaper: “The whole process is shambolic. We are human beings. I’ve been here 20 years.
“I’ve got A-levels. I speak six different languages. I’m not a criminal or drug dealer, I haven’t done anything. The more I think about it, the more I get upset.”
Public protests against the deportations took place in both London and Kurdistan on Monday.
Bella Sankey, director at the charity Detention Action, said: “We know of at least 11 people with British children and grandchildren who could be deported to Iraqi Kurdistan. Many escaped here decades ago from the violence and turmoil in that region.”
Another asylum seeker, speaking from a UK detention center before his deportation, said: “I swear that every single person returned to Kurdistan will be in danger.
“Some have already received threats. We are worried that we will be grabbed as soon as we arrive at the airport in Irbil.
“In my country some people wouldn’t think twice about shooting us in the head. There are some ruthless people there.”
Immigrant rights campaigner Karen Doyle said: “The Home Office is planning to send traumatized torture survivors to a dangerous and unstable region in a move which shows utter disregard for human life.
“The men we have been speaking to have made their lives in the UK and have wives and children here. Many have been unable to secure legal representation while detained. This government is ignoring individual traumas of those due to fly.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “We make no apology for removing foreign criminals and those with no right to remain in the UK. This is what the public rightly expects and why we regularly operate flights to different countries.”