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Page last updated at 16:10 GMT, Friday, 20 June 2008 17:10 UK

The plight of Iraqi asylum seekers

Salam Pax
BBC Newsnight

Numbers, numbers, numbers!

The past few days I have been struggling to make sense of numbers and laws regarding Iraqi asylum seekers in the UK.

Not the most exciting way to mark Refugee Week which is being celebrated this week, I am sure you agree.

You can check out the Home Office's first quarter report for yourself.

But if you don't want to go through endless lists of numbers, I have done the work for you and can you the short version.

I asked Amnesty International here in London if they could help me out with the numbers of applicants in the UK and got a message saying that the numbers are stunning and they were. Asylum applications from Iraq have significantly dropped from pre-war numbers.

We do not enforce return unless we are satisfied that it is safe to do so.
Home Office

In 2002, one year before the war, Iraqis put 14,370 applications for asylum forward here in the UK while last year only 1,835 applied. The numbers for those whose application has been accepted has also gone down from 715 in 2002 to 145 last year.

So what happens to those whose application is refused you ask… Well, the policy until now seems to have been that many of the failed Iraqi asylum seekers were granted "Humanitarian Protection" or a "Discretionary Leave to Remain" as it is not safe to return them to a conflict zone.

They get £35 in supermarket vouchers and accommodation until it is safe to return them home.

The numbers of those being granted this sort of protection has also been going down. The year before the war 8,200 Iraqi were given this protection and were allowed to stay in the UK until it was safe for them to go back home.

Does this mean that the Home Office thinks Iraq is safe?
Salam Pax

But since the war, those numbers have been going down. In 2004 only 185 were given this "Exceptional Leave to Remain" and last year only 15.

Also many of those who were staying in the UK under this status are now being told that unless they don't sign up for "voluntary return" they will have their financial support and accommodation withdrawn from them.

So if less people are given this "Exceptional Leave to Remain" to protect them from having to go back to a conflict zone does this mean that the Home Office thinks Iraq is safe?

It has recently gone to court to argue that "conditions in Iraq are such that an ordinary individual Iraqi civilian is not at serious risk from indiscriminate violence" so maybe they do.

Interesting. I know that what I find really scary is that the violence in Iraq is quite indiscriminate.

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