Fate of Iraqi man deported from America unknown

“We are very concerned about his safety, and do not know how to reach him.”

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The fate of an Iraqi man remains unknown after he was reportedly involuntarily deported to Baghdad amid claims immigration officials in the United States are coercing Iraqi detainees to return home according to legal officials.

Days after a federal judge determined there is evidence to suggest Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents have been threatening Iraqi detainees at a Michigan jail and pressuring them to agree to deportations, Kurdistan 24 learned that the whereabouts of an Iraqi man sent to Baghdad remain unknown.

Speaking to Kurdistan 24, Miriam Aukerman, senior staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Michigan, noted that Muneer Subaihani, a native and citizen of Iraq in his 50s who lived in the US for many years, was involuntarily deported.

“This is in direct violation of Judge Goldsmith’s order,” Aukerman said. In July 2017, US District Judge Mark Goldsmith halted the deportation of the detainees and barred the harassment of detainees who are part of an ACLU lawsuit regarding the extradition of over 1,400 Iraqi nationals.

“Iraq has long required deportees to sign a form stating that they are willing to return to Iraq, and will not accept their repatriation involuntarily,” Aukerman explained. 

“In May, ICE transferred about 40 detainees to a facility in Georgia, where they were interviewed by consular officials and presented with the form saying that they wanted to return. The detainees were told that if they did not sign, they would be prosecuted or would spend years in jail.”

During the roundup of detainees in June 2017, ICE pointed out the would-be deportees included men who were convicted of violent assault, drug charges, and other serious crimes. However, it was highlighted some had already served their sentences.

The ACLU also alleged that detainees were being punished with solitary confinement for “fabricated or completely nonexistent reasons” to pressure them into signing travel forms.

“None of the Hamama class members are supposed to be deported without the judge’s permission, even if Iraq issues travel documents.”

Hamama class members fall under a petition which argues that if returned to Iraq, the petitioners face persecution, torture, or death and that they, therefore, cannot be deported before they have a chance to present their claims to an immigration judge. Many are Chaldean Catholics, Sunni Muslims, or Iraqi Kurds who are recognized as targets of ill-treatment in Iraq.

The US government claims Subaihani wanted to return, but Aukerman states that when he was interviewed, he told the ACLU he “feared for his life in Iraq.”

Since last week, ICE has “made efforts to obtain contact information to reach Subaihani in Iraq,” according to a notice provided by the ACLU.

“We are very concerned about his safety, and do not know how to reach him,” Aukerman said.   

The Iraqi government will not accept individuals for repatriation if they are unwilling to be removed to Iraq. However, Aukerman asserts “the US has put pressure on Iraq to accept the involuntary deportees.” 

“Iraq has issued travel documents for the six individuals who refused to sign the document saying they do not want to return. To date, they have not yet been deported.”

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany