Including Kurdistan Region

Human Rights Watch urges end to deportations of Syrians in Iraq

NEWSROOM – Human Rights Watch has called on Iraqi and Kurdish authorities to stop their ongoing “arbitrary arrests” and “unlawful deportation” campaign against Syrians residing in the country. The rights group reported that “some” Syrian nationals were deported by Iraqi and Kurdish governments so far.

The detainees had residency permits in the Kurdistan Region and were registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Arrested individuals are typically deported to Damascus and other parts of Syria.

“Iraq should immediately end its distressing campaign of arbitrary arrests and deportations of Syrians who have fled to Iraq for safety,” said Sarah Sanbar, Iraq researcher at Human Rights Watch. “By forcibly returning asylum seekers to Syria, Iraq is knowingly placing them in harm’s way,” she added in a report released on the Human Rights Watch website.

The deportations continue despite an August 2023 decision by Iraq’s Supreme Judicial Council banning the deportation of Syrian refugees. Iraq is not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention nor its supplementary 1967 Protocol, and the Baghdad government, unlike the KRG, stopped granting refugee status to Syrians who arrived after 2011.

In April, the Kurdistan Regional Government announced it would cease renewing residency permit cards for Syrian nationals. Human Rights Watch estimates that up to 280,000 Syrians live in Iraq, with most residing in the Kurdistan Region.