Iraqis expelled from Britain showed bruises: UN

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The UN refugee agency said Friday that some of the 42 Iraqis who claimed they were forcibly returned from Britain a day ago showed fresh bruises that could indicate possible mistreatment.

The office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has warned Britain, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden against deporting Iraqi refugees to Baghdad, pointing to persistent security threats in central regions of the country.

"We're also looking into the accounts of mistreatment among the rejected asylum seekers who were forcibly returned yesterday (Thursday) from the UK," said UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic.

Lawyers in Baghdad managed to interview 14 of the 42 men who were said to have been handled on Thursday by the UK Border Agency.

"The men claim that they were beaten by agency personnel in the airport in London while being forced onto the plane. We've met with six of them and saw fresh bruises that indicated mistreatment could have occurred," he added.

Mahecic told journalists that the remaining 36 are still being held at Baghdad airport. Eight of them had been contacted by telephone so far.

"All of those interviewed reported that the 42 deportees were forcibly returned to Baghdad against their will," he said.

"Our advice is still the one and the same, and that's that governments should not be sending back the Iraqi asylum applicants originating from the five central governorates in Iraq," including Baghdad, the UNHCR spokesman added.

Mahecic said the agency was not informed by any of the governments involved about return flights to Iraq.

British Prime Minister David Cameron defended the decision to send asylum seekers back to Iraq last week.

Cameron said that British troops had fought to ensure that the country was safe enough for refugees to return and pointed to progress there.

© 2010 AFP

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