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Last Updated: Monday, 21 November 2005, 10:40 GMT
Fears over Iraqi's return from UK
Protester with sign saying Iraq not safe outside the Home Office
Protesters say no parts of Iraq are safe for forced returns
A failed Iraqi asylum seeker facing deportation from the UK says he fears he will be killed by the Islamist groups that murdered his wife.

Sherzad Jalal says he was previously tortured by the groups who are still active in his home town in Kurdistan where he would be returned.

His fears follow the deportation of 15 failed Iraqi asylum seekers to Irbil in the Kurdish northern area of Iraq.

The Home Office says some areas of Iraq "are sufficiently stable" for returns.

My life is threatened
Sherzad Jalal

Mr Jalal, who has been in the UK since 1999, says he left his homeland because of the persecution.

"My life is threatened by the... terrorist Islamic groups," he told BBC News.

"They are growing. They used to behead people and kill people and I've been tortured under them for a week.

"In February 2002, my wife was assassinated by those groups.

"The town where I used to live, where I was born, I heard just three days ago, they killed 76 people because of two car bombers in Mosques so I can't believe that safety that they're talking about."

Mr Jalal expects a final decision on his case on Friday.

The Home Office said it could not comment on individual cases.

On Sunday, it confirmed that 15 Iraqi asylum seekers had been sent home from the UK, despite protests that it is not safe.

'Limited attachment'

The government said its decision followed advice from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) that some returns to Kurdish regions of Iraq were now "feasible".

But spokesman Peter Kessler said the agency "never think it's a good idea for people to be forced back to their country".

"We have issued an advisory that we think voluntary returns can begin to the northern part of the country but those are voluntary returns.

I would be very, very happy if every return was voluntary but we're talking about people who've received the absolute end of their asylum claim
Immigration Minister Tony McNulty

"We don't think that anybody should forced home because often that means their attachment is very limited and their ability to and their willingness to reintegrate is very limited."

Immigration Minister Tony McNulty said the government had "the evidence of over 1,000 people going back voluntarily with no apparent incident at all".

"There has been quite a sustained period of stability in the three Northern Governorates," he told BBC News.

"I would be very, very happy if every return was voluntary but we're talking about people who've received the absolute end of their asylum claim."

'Difficult position'

The Home Office said the group of 15 had been given assistance to "re-establish themselves in Iraq, enabling them to contribute to the rebuilding of their country".

"There is clearly a difficult position in those parts of Iraq most affected by insurgencies but we do not accept this is the case in all areas."

Enforced returns were "taken forward on a case-by-case basis and only to areas assessed to be sufficiently stable and where we are satisfied that the individuals concerned will not be at risk", the Home Office added.

Lib Dem home affairs spokesman Mark Oaten, meanwhile, has called for a moratorium on forced returns to Iraq.

"Everybody knows just how unstable Iraq is," he said.

"The government should halt this programme and wait until we have much more long-term evidence that the northern region is stable."

The Refugee Council says it is "appalled" about the "unsafe" forced deportations.

"We do not believe the government has taken sufficient steps to ensure the safety of the people it has sent back to this war-torn region," director of communications Tim Finch said.

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