> ----------------------------------
> NSA 6/03
> April 11, 2003
> Iraqi asylum seekers in the United States
> AIUSA Concerns:
> Amnesty International USA is concerned that Iraqi asylum
> seekers in the United States be provided a full opportunity
> to present their asylum claims and that their applications
> are adjudicated in a timely manner.  Under present
> circumstances in Iraq, AIUSA is also concerned that no
> Iraqis be forcibly returned to Iraq until an objective
> assessment of conditions concludes that a safe, dignified
> and sustainable return in accordance with international
> standards is possible.  Finally, AIUSA opposes the
> mandatory detention of insufficiently documented asylum
> seekers arriving in the United States.
> No Suspension of Iraqi Asylum Adjudications and No
> Forced Returns at the Present Time
> In a letter dated 2 April 2003, the Regional Representative
> of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in
> the United States wrote to U.S. authorities responsible for
> asylum, calling on them to designate Iraqi nationals in the
> United States for temporary protected status (TPS).
> UNHCR also said, "Understanding the procedural
> complexities of TPS and its limited application in the United
> States, where such temporary form of protection is not
> available, UNHCR recommends that adjudicators continue
> to consider asylum claims on an individual basis."  The
> UNHCR branch office in Washington also called on the
> U.S. authorities to consider granting asylum to Iraqis
> whose cases have been pending for protracted periods
> and for individuals who have suffered severe forms of
> persecution in the past.
> Amnesty International USA supports UNHCR's position
> that the U.S. authorities should continue adjudicating Iraqi
> asylum claims on an individual basis and should not return
> any Iraqis involuntarily at the present time.
> Some countries, including the United Kingdom, Denmark,
> Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland have suspended
> decision-making on claims from Iraqi nationals.  AIUSA
> considers it premature to suggest that the rapid changes
> that are taking place in Iraq will be fundamental, effective
> and durable, thereby removing a continuing need for
> protection. Therefore, applications for asylum should not
> be frozen or otherwise delayed either in anticipation of or
> with the expectation that, changes have or will have taken
> place that would establish that there is no ongoing need for
> protection.
> One of the arguments that at least some states have been
> putting forward to justify 'processing freezes' is that the
> situation in Iraq is in such a state of flux, that it is currently
> not possible to make decisions on refugee claims.
> Amnesty International considers that this argument should
> be strenuously resisted, as it points to a preference on the
> part of states to deny rather than grant protection.  States
> should recognise that a state of flux is a common feature of
> the majority of refugee situations, and it would be
> extraordinary if this were to constitute a valid ground to
> freeze or otherwise delay decision-making.  A prospective
> assessment of risk is still possible in such circumstances,
> so refugee status (as well as complementary forms of
> protection) can still be granted.
> Mandatory Detention
> The new Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
> announced on March 17 that it would automatically detain
> improperly documented asylum seekers arriving from Iraq
> and other countries, "for the duration of their processing
> period." These asylum seekers-people seeking refuge
> from persecution in their home countries-could spend
> months or years in detention, while their claims are
> pending.
> Before the new "asylum modifications" announced as part
> of "Operation Liberty Shield," immigration authorities had
> the power to deny release to anyone they suspected might
> pose a danger to the public.  Now, there will be no such
> discretion to make an individualized parole assessment.
> Under the new policy, asylum seekers from Iraq and a long
> list of unnamed countries will be detained simply because
> of their nationality-not because the authorities have any
> evidence that the asylum seeker individually poses any
> danger.
> Blanket detention of asylum seekers contravenes
> international refugee norms, which hold that asylum
> seekers normally should not be detained, and is justified
> only in limited cases prescribed by law. The International
> Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) prohibits
> arbitrary detention, and requires that detained persons be
> permitted, without delay, to challenge the lawfulness of
> their detention and to seek release before a court.
> Governments, in turn, have the burden of showing the
> necessity for detention in prompt and fair individualized
> hearings.
> Please send appeals in your own words as quickly as
> possible to Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, to
> President Bush, and to your members of Congress, calling
> upon them to:
> -     lift the mandatory detention policy for improperly
> documented Iraqi and other asylum-seekers, as
> this may operate as a deterrent to prevent Iraqis
> and members of other unnamed nationalities from
> seeking asylum in the United States;
> -     ensure that Iraqi asylum-seekers have access to
> full, fair, and timely asylum procedure for
> determining their claims for protection in the United
> States;
> -     ensure that Iraqi applications for asylum are not
> frozen either in anticipation of, or in the expectation
> that, changes have or will have taken place that
> would establish that there is no ongoing need for
> protection;
> -     Urge the U.S. government not to forcibly return
> Iraqis to any part of Iraq
> o     Unless they have had access to a fair and
> satisfactory asylum procedure; and
> o     until an objective assessment of conditions
> concludes that a safe, dignified and
> sustainable return in accordance with
> international standards is possible.
> The Honorable Tom Ridge
> Secretary of Homeland Security
> U.S. Department of Homeland Security
> Naval Security Station
> Nebraska and Massachusetts Ave. NW
> Washington, DC 20528
> Fax: 1 202 282 8404
> http://www.dhs.gov/dhspublic/contactus
> Salutation: Dear Secretary Ridge
> The Honorable George W. Bush
> President
> The White House, Office of the President
> 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
> Washington, DC 20500
> Fax: 1 202 456-2461
> Salutation: Dear President Bush
> Refugee Program
> Amnesty International USA
> 600 Pennsylvania Avenue SE, Ste. 300,
> Washington, DC 20003
> T. 202.544.0200x497
> F. 202.544-7852
> E-mail. refugee@aiusa.org