On 23 August 2016, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that returning an Iraqi family, who had sought asylum in Sweden, back to their country of origin could result in inhumane or degrading treatment, violating Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The court based its decision in this case on the deteriorating security situation in Iraq.

The Court noted that in Iraq, the family (a couple and their son) had been subjected to ill-treatment by al-Qaeda. The father, who owned a construction and transport business, belonged to a systematically targeted group of persons because of his business relationship with the American armed forces. According to the Court, this provided a clear indication that the family would continue to be at risk from al-Qaeda in Iraq.

The Court further observed that the security situation in Iraq had severely deteriorated since 2011 and 2012. As a result of the increase in sectarian violence and ISIS attacks, most areas are no longer under effective control by the Iraqi government. The Iraqi authorities would therefore be unable to adequately protect its citizens.

According to the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), Iraqis are among the top 3 nationalities requesting asylum in the EU. In July 2016 alone, EASO recorded 11,294 asylum applications from persons originating from Iraq. However, Iraqis are no longer eligible for relocation from Italy or Greece as only 60% of applications were given a positive decision.  This number remains below the threshold for relocation eligibility of 75% or more.

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This article will appear in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 2 September 2016. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.