In a new position paper, UNHCR has urged States not to forcibly return persons arriving from Iraq until the security and human rights situation has tangibly improved. As the armed conflict persists, UNHCR affirms that international human rights and humanitarian law are systematically violated by both the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and the group ‘Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham’ (ISIS). Both ISIS and ISF have reportedly carried out widespread attacks against civilians that may amount to war crimes. In view of the situation, UNHCR maintains that many persons fleeing Iraq are likely to meet the 1951 Convention criteria for refugee status and that complementary forms of international protection should be granted to those not qualifying for refugee status.

The conflict has led to a surge of violence across Iraq and as a result, UNHCR finds that the Iraqi government has lost full or partial control over considerable parts of the country’s territory. UNHCR concludes that it is not possible for asylum seekers from Iraq to find adequate protection in an alternative area of Iraq and therefore States are also advised not to apply the internal protection alternative.

With respect to the humanitarian situation in Iraq, UNHCR also highlights that out of the 5 million people in need of humanitarian assistance only 1.5 million are currently reached by humanitarian actors. Access to food, health services and adequate shelter are key concerns.

Between January and October 2014, UNHCR has also registered an increase in the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Iraq, with 1.8 million persons registered as of October 2014, up from 1.3 million at the beginning of 2014.


This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 31 October 2014. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.