UK planning to deport failed asylum seekers to Iraq, reports say

Government sets sights on cutting immigration with proposal for swift deportation

Britain is understood to be planning to designate Iraq a 'safe country' to which to deport failed asylum seekers. Getty Images
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Iraq could be designated a “safe country” by British immigration chiefs in an attempt to rapidly return failed asylum seekers, it has been reported.

The government wants to add Iraq to the list along with Turkey and Egypt on which those who arrive in Britain via small boats are automatically returned to their home country.

As the government presses ahead with its clamp down on illegal Channel crossings, its legal bid to have Rwanda installed as a deportation country is expected to fail.

On Wednesday the UK’s Supreme Court will likely decide the Rwanda policy – under which asylum seekers deemed to have arrived in the UK illegally would be deported to the African nation – is unlawful, which could in turn trigger the resignation of Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who has been under pressure after a series of recent controversial comments.

The Rwanda judgment has been stalled by the European Court of Human Rights but if the court rules in the government’s favour, the first flights carrying failed asylum seekers will leave early next year.

If it fails, hardline Conservatives are expected to urge Britain to leave the European Convention on Human Rights.

But it appears a back-up plan is in the pipeline, with more countries being added to the safe list.

India and Georgia were added earlier this month but Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick has raised the prospect of adding Iraq, Egypt and Turkey.

He is reported to have discussed the immigration issue last week at a meeting with the Foreign Secretary of the Kurdish Regional Government.

If his proposals are agreed on, it would mean Iraqis, predominantly Kurds, Turkish and Egyptian asylum seekers, deemed to have arrived in the UK illegally, would be sent to their home countries.

The small boat arrivals from the three countries this year has accounted for almost 4,000 or 20 per cent of those reaching in Britain via the English Channel by the end of August.

In the eight months to August, there were 1,774 migrants from Iraq on the Channel crossings.

The Home Office is understood to have been asked to examine the possibility because 80 per cent of failed Iraqi asylum seekers were Kurdish, The Sunday Telegraph reported.

However, there are concerns about returning people to Iraq given sectarian violence in the country.

There were 2,121 Turkish people arriving in small boats in the same period and 679 from Egypt, with both countries being “actively considered” for the safe list. A fast-track deal with Albania has led to hundreds being returned to the Eastern European country this year.

But the Refugee Council has warned that more than half of those from Iraq have been granted asylum, suggesting they had a requirement to leave their country.

“This government should be focusing on operating an orderly, humane and fair asylum system, treating people with humanity and dignity, as well as expanding safe routes to the UK,” a spokesman said.

Updated: November 12, 2023, 12:09 PM