Sunday, June 19, 2011

Baghdad awaits arrival of 70 deported Kurdish refugees from Britain

Erbil, June 18 (AKnews) – The UK government is planning to deport some 70 Kurdish refugees – due to arrive in Baghdad this week - amid criticism from refugee groups.Baghdad airport

The deportations come as refugee groups have warned that the lives of the refugees will be put at risk by sending them back to Iraq where they had fled violence and life threats.

"On June 21, 70 Kurdish refugees will be forcibly deported from Britain to Baghdad airport," Dashti Jamal, secretary of the International Federation of Iraqi Refugees (IFIR) told AKnews.

On Wednesday the UK government deported some 16 Kurdish refugees who landed in Baghdad airport. According to the IFIR, some 250 Iraqi refugees mainly Kurds have been deported from Europe this year, and some 700 others are awaiting the same fate.

IFIR's Kurdistan-based official Amanj Abdullah has said the Iraqi government signed a deal with European countries wanting to deport Iraqis in return for dropping Iraqi debts. Other countries that started forced deportations via Baghdad in 2005 are Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland.

Some 5,000 to 6,000 Iraqi refugees, most of them Kurds, have been deported from Europe since 2005, according to IFIR figures.

In May, Swedish ambassador to Iraq Karl Magnus denied claims of a behind-the-curtains deal between Sweden and Iraq to deport Iraqis in return for loans being dropped. He did not, however, deny the deportations.

"What is circulated in the media about a deal… to deport Iraqis is not true," Ambassador Magnus told AKnews, adding that, "we reject asylum only to Kurds because the Kurdistan Region is enjoying security and economic stability therefore Kurdish Iraqi citizens do not need asylum in our country."

A UK Border Agency spokesman, however, said to the BBC in August 2010: "Currently we have an agreement with the government of Iraq to return all Iraqi citizens to Baghdad".

"Deported Refugees Exposed to Danger"

A statement posted on the website of the National Coalition of Anti Deportation Campaigns, a refugee group, says that many of those who have been deported to Iraq are now living in hiding, in fear of persecution because "most of them are from the disputed areas" and had originally fled from the violence there.

The disputed areas are those territorially contested between the regional government of Kurdistan and Baghdad. Many of the insurgent groups like al-Qaeda, the Islamic State of Iraq, and Naqishbandi group are active in these volatile regions.

 "This number includes women and children as well. Three of those refugees to be deported have gone on a hunger strike and have not eaten anything for the past three days," the IFIR secretary said.

On June 24, some 24 Iraqi refugees, most of them Kurds, in Campsfield House Immigration Removal Centre, UK, went on strike as the UK government said it was preparing to send them back to Iraq.

Among the 70 Kurds to be deported is a young Kurdish man from Iraq's volatile province of Dyala, Adam Aziz, who has been living in the UK for almost four years with his partner Joanne. They were planning to marry before authorities caught up with him to announce his deportation.

UNHCR has voiced concerns regarding the forced deportations to Iraq on several occasions. In January, the UNHCR's Melissa Fleming said "Our position reflects the volatile security situation and the still high level of prevailing violence, security incidents, and human rights violations taking place in these parts of Iraq."

"UNHCR considers that serious – including indiscriminate – threats to life, physical integrity or freedom resulting from violence or events seriously disturbing public order are valid reasons for international protection" she said.

Iraq's Immigration Minister Dindar Doski, a Kurd, told AKnews that Iraq cannot do anything to press the UK government to stop deporting Iraqi refugees, "because those countries are independent countries with their own laws and do not care what we want."

"To be forcibly deported to Iraq these refugees must have been refused asylum by the countries." Doski said.

Doski suggested that the refugees with failed asylum cases should take advantage of the financial support given by the UK government to those voluntarily returning.

"After the refugees refuse to return to their own countries or leave the host country, the country's authorities will forcibly deport them to Iraq and they will also lose the financial assistance which is up to US$15,000 because they do not leave the country normally."

By Raber Y. Aziz, additional reporting by Fryad Mohammed (AKnews)

18/06/2011 22:10

Turkey: Ocalan extends PKK ceasefire

Erbil, June 18 (Aknews) – The imprisoned leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), Abdullah Ocalan, has ordered the extension a ceasefire he declared nearly a year ago to give the Turkish authorities another chance to engage in talks to come up with a solution to the country's Kurdish issue, reports Turkish newspaper the Sabah daily.Abdullah Ocalan

Ocalan's lawyers said their client has called for an extension of the ceasefire despite his threat in May to resume the armed conflict with the Turkish state if the Turkish authorities did not agree to enter talks with the PKK.

The paper quotes Ocalan's lawyers as saying the leader is continuing talks with state officials to reach a solution to the Kurdish issue through "a democratic constitution"

The PKK was formed in South-east Turkey by Abdullah Ocalan in 1978.

Formerly a peaceful group made up of students, the PKK took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984.

The group has been fighting for greater political and cultural rights for Turkey's 20 million Kurds for nearly three decades.

Around 45,000 people have died in the war against the Turkish military so far, many of them civilians.

Ocalan was arrested in Nairobi in 1999 and is still imprisoned under Turkish custody on the remote Imrali Island.

Since this time, the PKK's struggle has been continued on the political arena

Turkey has officially refused to negotiate with the PKK which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the European Union and the U.S.

PKK spokesman Ahmet Deniz told AKnews last week that the PKK was waiting for the orders of their leader as to whether they would extend their ceasefire or not.

The PKK has declared 8 unilateral ceasefires over the years in favor of finding peaceful means to resolve the issue,  but the Turkish state - which along with the US and the EU lists the organization as a "terrorist group - has officially refused to enter into negotiations with them.

Ocalan, along with other pro-Kurdish groups, have been calling for reforms to the Turkish constitution that recognize their Kurdish identity, give them the right to education in their mother tongue and provide them with 'democratic autonomy'- a form of self-rule.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Teyyip Erdogan who's party, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) secured him a second term in office (the AKP's 3rd consecutive term), in the June 12 elections, has promised to write a new constitution.

However, having won 326 seats in the 550-member parliament, the AKP fell short of the 367 seat quota to be able to unilaterally draft a new constitution. Erdogan will now need the backing of other parties for the purpose including the Kurds who secured 36 seats.

The Kurds have repeatedly announced that they will not give their vote to a rewritten constitution that fails to address their demands.

Written by Raber Y. Aziz, reporting by Abdulqadir al-Wandawi