ECRE Questionnaire on the Treatment of Iraqi Refugees and Asylum Seekers in
Europe, April 2004 - Summary
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ECRE undertook a short survey during the period of February-April 2004 in order
to collate up-to-date, detailed information on how governments in Europe are
responding to the continuing presence of Iraqis in need of international protection
in their countries. ECRE has done this through designing and disseminating a
questionnaire to refugee-assisting organisations in nineteen countries. Most
of the organisations from whom responses were requested are members of ECRE
and all of them work directly with asylum seekers and refugees from all over
the world, including Iraq.
The nineteen countries surveyed are all European with the exception of Australia
and the United States. They are: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark,
Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Lithuania, the Netherlands,
Norway, Romania, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. The questionnaire
covers the last three years, from 2001 to 2003, with information for 2000 sometimes
available. The information provided includes the estimated number of Iraqi refugees
present in each country, the number and nature of decisions taken on their applications
for asylum, policies toward the processing of asylum applications and the return
of those whose applications have been rejected, and more general information
on the types of protection status Iraqis are receiving.
Key findings of the survey include:
· The countries reporting the highest number of Iraqi refugees are Denmark
(12,000), Norway (15,000), Sweden (60-70,000), and Germany (150,000) . However,
these numbers are not directly comparable as some take into account only recognised
refugees (Sweden), while others include estimates of Iraqis with and without
a legal status, eg Germany.
· With the exception of just three countries (Germany, The Netherlands,
and Australia), Iraqi asylum applications are being processed, in many cases
after a period of suspension established during the run-up to the war in the
beginning of 2003.
· Overall, fewer applications have been received in the last year, yet
applications from Kurdish asylum seekers remain a significant portion of the
total asylum applications from Iraqis received in those countries where such
statistics are available.
· In the majority of cases where statistics are available, fewer Iraqis
were granted asylum or a subsidiary form of protection in 2003 than in the previous
· The vastly different asylum procedures and policies of the eighteen
different countries surveyed makes it difficult to highlight any overall pattern
regarding the proportion of Iraqi applicants that are receiving some kind of
status. For example, in Greece, where Iraqis make up almost half the number
of the 6,791 asylum applications received from 2001 to 2003, none were recognised
as refugees at the first instance, while in France about one-third of the 246
Iraqi applicants were granted asylum at the first instance.
· At the moment, the United Kingdom is the only country that has officially
announced a program for the forced return of Iraqi asylum seekers whose applications
have been rejected. In several other countries, return is not officially under
moratorium, but due to logistical difficulties (eg the inability to secure transit
visas) forced return is not practised.
· In some countries, policy towards Iraqis from northern Iraq and those
from central and southern Iraq differ. In Lithuania, deportation to northern
Iraq is now legal but not enforced because it is under appeal. In the Netherlands,
northern Iraqis are more likely to have their asylum applications rejected and
the return moratorium to northern Iraq has been lifted. The Swedish Migration
Board has also given indications that it believes the northern part of Iraq
is a safe place to return. However, deportations have not yet occurred, again
probably because of logistical reasons.
· Scant benefits exist for those Iraqi asylum seekers whose applications
are rejected. In Sweden, Finland, and Belgium reduced benefits are offered,
while in Greece, Iraqis whose applications are rejected are left with no access
to social welfare systems and, in France, they are allowed to stay but not given
any papers. In Norway, asylum seekers whose applications have not succeeded
but who meet certain deadlines are offered a financial aid package contingent
on their selecting to return to Iraq.
The rule of law and the protection of basic human rights are not in place in
Iraq and insecurity persists throughout the country, including northern Iraq.
In this respect most governments of the countries surveyed share the same approach
in terms of not undertaking forced returns of Iraqis. However their approaches
with regard to the treatment of Iraqi refugees and asylum seekers in their countries
vary widely. For detailed recommendations on this, please see ECRE's
Guidelines on the Treatment of Iraqi Asylum Seekers and Refugees in Europe -
For further information contact the European Council on Refugees and Exiles
103 Worship Street
London EC2A 2DF
Tel +44 (0) 20
Fax +44 (0) 20 7377 7586
205 rue Belliard
Tel +32 (0)2 514
Fax +32 (0)2 514 59 22
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