Refugees Caught Between Deportation And Death Threats

Published on Inter Press Service, by Ali al-Fadhily, 07 December, 2007.

BAGHDAD, Dec 6 (IPS) – Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis driven out of their country by violence are now faced with detention abroad, or a homecoming to death threats.

More than two million Iraqis, in a population of about 25 million, have taken refuge in many countries. Only a few have won official status as refugees. Most refugees in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and many other countries stay on as illegal residents, facing threats of deportation and imprisonment.

“To deport an Iraqi refugee is to issue a death warrant,” Ali Jassim, an Iraqi journalist recently deported from Lebanon told IPS in Baghdad. “The Lebanese authorities are applying regular migration rules to Iraqis, meaning that most Iraqis in Lebanon will be deported.”

The Human Rights Watch report titled ‘Rot Here or Die There: Bleak Choices for Iraqi Refugees in Lebanon’ released Dec. 4 says Lebanese authorities are arresting Iraqi refugees who have no valid visas, and detaining them indefinitely to coerce them to return to Iraq.

“Iraqi refugees in Lebanon live in constant fear of arrest,” Bill Frelick, refugee policy director for Human Rights Watch told reporters. “Refugees who are arrested face the prospect of rotting in jail indefinitely unless they agree to return to Iraq and face the dangers there.”

There are at least 40,000 Iraqi refugees in Lebanon, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Complaints of mistreatment by Lebanese authorities pushed many Iraqis to flee Lebanon for Syria earlier, but this is no longer possible. As of Oct. 1, the Syrian government requires Iraqis to obtain visas.

The Iraqi refugees already in Syria are struggling … (full text).

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