A German federal court has ruled that four Iraqi refugees cannot be deported simply because Saddam Hussein is no longer in power. An estimated 73,000 Iraqis live as "tolerated persons" in Germany.
Many Iraqi refugees do not feel it is safe to return home
German authorities moved to revoke the four Iraqi plaintiffs' refugee status after the fall of Saddam Hussein and the US declaration of the end of combat.
But the plaintiffs argued that the ongoing violence made it dangerous for them to return to Iraq. A lower court had rejected the case, saying that Iraq was not in the midst of a nationwide war, but rather plagued by frequent, individual attacks.
The Liepzig court rejected the lower court ruling on Thursday, June 26. A policy approved in Germany in August 2007, which was passed in compliance with a European Union directive, offered protection to Iraqis due to the serious security risks they faced, the court ruled.
The EU law protects even those not considered refugees under the Geneva Convention, but who "face a serious potential threat if they return to their country of origin," the court said in a statement.
The judges remanded the case to a court in the southern city of Munich, which will determine whether the four plaintiffs still qualify for asylum under the EU directive.
Iraqis in Germany face uncertain future
The four Iraqi plaintiffs arrived in Germany between 1996 and 2004 and had applied for political asylum. After their asylum petitions were denied, they faced deportation.
The case has broad implications for Iraqi refugees in Germany. Germany has revoked the refugee status of more than 18,000 Iraqis since November 2003. An additional 20,000 have been warned they could lose asylum due to the "radical change" in Iraq since Saddam's fall.
The Iraqis are considered "tolerated persons" who could be deported at any point, do not have the right to work and cannot bring their families to Germany.
German authorities have said the refugees could return to calmer regions of northern Iraq such as Kurdistan.
An estimated 73,000 Iraqis live in exile in Germany, according to the United Nations. Amnesty International has accused Western countries of ignoring their responsibilities towards Iraqi refugees, calling the security situation "dire."