- The Washington Times - Friday, September 3, 2010

The United Nations’ refugee agency is expressing concern that Western European countries are forcibly deporting Iraqi citizens back to Iraq.

Sixty-one people, most of them Iraqis living in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Britain, were flown back to Baghdad this week.

Adrian Edwards, a spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said in Geneva that the agency was “very concerned” about these developments.

“We strongly urge European governments to provide Iraqis with protection until the situation in their areas of origin in Iraq allows for safe and voluntary returns,” Mr. Edwards said.

UNHCR’s guidelines ask governments not to forcibly return Iraqis to Baghdad, Diyala, Kirkuk, Ninewa and Salah Al-din in light of the rampant human rights violations and elevated security concerns in those parts of Iraq.

Iraqis continue to live with the daily threat of bombings, mortar attacks and kidnapping.

UNHCR is worried that Western European nations may be setting a bad example for Iraq’s neighbors, which are hosting much larger numbers of Iraqi refugees. 

According to the UNHCR, more than 1.5 million people remain displaced within Iraq while hundreds of thousands of others are living in mainly Syria and Jordan.

Earlier this week, President Obama announced the end to combat missions in Iraq and said the Iraqi people have “lead responsibility” for the security of their country. 

Mr. Obama said that even as Iraq continues to bear the brunt of terrorist attacks “security incidents have been near the lowest on record since the war began.”