New Country Guidance case on Iraq

In a decision from the Upper Tribunal, dated 1st October 2015, new country guidance is established, replacing all previous guidance on Iraq. AA (Article 15(c)) Iraq CG, [2015] UKUT 00544 (IAC), United Kingdom: Upper Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber), 1 October 2015.

A. INDISCRIMINATE VIOLENCE IN IRAQ: ARTICLE 15(C) OF THE - QUALIFICATION DIRECTIVE

1. There is at present a state of internal armed conflict in certain parts of Iraq, involving government security forces, militias of various kinds, and the Islamist group known as ISIL. The intensity of this armed conflict in the so-called “contested areas”, comprising the governorates of Anbar, Diyala, Kirkuk, (aka Ta’min), Ninewah and Salah Al-din, is such that, as a general matter, there are substantial grounds for believing that any civilian returned there, solely on account of his or her presence there, faces a real risk of being subjected to indiscriminate violence amounting to serious harm within the scope of Article 15(c) of the Qualification Directive.

2. The degree of armed conflict in certain parts of the “Baghdad Belts” (the urban environs around Baghdad City) is also of the intensity described in paragraph 1 above, thereby giving rise to a generalised Article 15(c) risk. The parts of the Baghdad Belts concerned are those forming the border between the Baghdad Governorate and the contested areas described in paragraph 1.

3. The degree of armed conflict in the remainder of Iraq (including Baghdad City) is not such as to give rise to indiscriminate violence amounting to such serious harm to civilians, irrespective of their individual characteristics, so as to engage Article 15(c).

4. In accordance with the principles set out in Elgafaji (C-465/07) and QD (Iraq) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2009] EWCA Civ 620, decision-makers in Iraqi cases should assess the individual characteristics of the person claiming humanitarian protection, in order to ascertain whether those characteristics are such as to put that person at real risk of Article 15(c) harm.

B. DOCUMENTATION AND FEASIBILITY OF RETURN (excluding IKR)

5. Return of former residents of the Iraqi Kurdish Region (IKR) will be to the IKR and all other Iraqis will be to Baghdad. The Iraqi authorities will allow an Iraqi national (P) in the United Kingdom to enter Iraq only if P is in possession of a current or expired Iraqi passport relating to P, or a laissez passer.

6. No Iraqi national will be returnable to Baghdad if not in possession of one of these documents.

7. In the light of the Court of Appeal’s judgment in HF (Iraq) and Others v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2013] EWCA Civ 1276, an international protection claim made by P cannot succeed by reference to any alleged risk of harm arising from an absence of Iraqi identification documentation, if the Tribunal finds that P’s return is not currently feasible, given what is known about the state of P’s documentation.

C. POSITION ON DOCUMENTATION WHERE RETURN IS FEASIBLE

8. It will only be where the Tribunal is satisfied that the return of P to Iraq is feasible that the issue of alleged risk of harm arising from an absence of Iraqi identification documentation will require judicial determination. ( see 9 - 13)

D. INTERNAL RELOCATION WITHIN IRAQ (OTHER THAN THE IRAQI KURDISH REGION)

14. As a general matter, it will not be unreasonable or unduly harsh for a person from a contested area to relocate to Baghdad City or (subject to paragraph 2 above) the Baghdad Belts.

15. In assessing whether it would be unreasonable/unduly harsh for P to relocate to Baghdad, the following factors are, however, likely to be relevant:

(a) whether P has a CSID or will be able to obtain one (b) whether P can speak Arabic (those who cannot are less likely to find employment); (c) whether P has family members or friends in Baghdad able to accommodate him; (d) whether P is a lone female (women face greater difficulties than men in finding employment); (e) whether P can find a sponsor to access a hotel room or rent accommodation; (f) whether P is from a minority community; (g) whether there is support available for P bearing in mind there is some evidence that returned failed asylum seekers are provided with the support generally given to IDPs.

E. IRAQI KURDISH REGION

17. The Respondent will only return P to the IKR if P originates from the IKR and P’s identity has been ‘pre-cleared’ with the IKR authorities. The authorities in the IKR do not require P to have an expired or current passport, or laissez passer.

18. The IKR is virtually violence free. There is no Article 15(c) risk to an ordinary civilian in the IKR.