On Friday, 3 January 2020 the US president Donald Trump ordered an airstrike at Baghdad airport which resulted in the death of Qasem Soleimani, who spearheaded Middle East operations as the head of the elite Quds forces. The Iraqi paramilitary chief Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis was killed in a US airstrike on Thursday 2 January 2020. In the airstrike on a motorcade on 3 January 2020 five Iraqis and five Iranians were killed outside Baghdad airport.
How has Iran responded?
This has resulted in a huge escalation in tensions between the US and the Middle East. As a result, the US has sent 3000 additional troops to the Middle East. The language used by Ayatollah Khamenei and other Iranian officials is worrying. Ayatollah Khamenei has been quoted: ‘severe revenge awaits the criminals’. Whilst the commander of the Revolutionary guards in Kerman in the south of Iran, General Gholamali Abuhamzeh, has described 35 vital US positions as ‘within reach’. It was also suggested by General Gholamali Abuhamzeh, that American destroyers and warships in the Gulf could face attacks.
Can I travel to Iran or Iraq?
British citizens have been advised against all travel to Iraq, except to the Kurdistan region of Iraq against which all but essential travel is advised. All but essential travel to Iran is also advised.
It may be that the killing has had an impact on Iranians and Iraqis already in the UK. Whilst the negative oratory is currently directed at US citizens; it may be that the consequence of this is increased tensions and possibly military action. It may be that such military action places Iranians and Iraqis already in the UK for reasons such as work or study at risk on return.
How does British asylum law work?
Section 8 of the Asylum and Immigration (treatment of claimants etc.) Act 2004 provides that a person should claim asylum at the earliest opportunity, and any delay in doing so could affect a person’s credibility. At the current point in time, it is unlikely that the killing of Soleimani would have created a situation that puts any Iraqi or Iranian at greater risk of persecution in Iran or Iraq, however, in light of the words used by Iranian officials and US officials such Donald Trump and Mike Pompeo, Iraqi or Iranian citizens in the UK will be well-advised pay close attention to the news and to ensure that where any risk to them arises either on the basis of being a refugee, or on the basis of their being a general risk of their life due to any deteriorating situation in Iran or Iraq, should claim asylum as soon as that risk arises, or they risk having their credibility questioned for not claiming at the earliest opportunity. It is worth noting that s8 is often read as requiring you to claim as soon as you arrive in the UK. However, if the risk arises whilst you are in the UK, then you may claim as soon as that arises without damaging your credibility, even where you arrived in the UK many years before.
If the situation in Iraq or Iran deteriorates to a point where the return is generally unsafe for all people, then it is likely that the Home Office would create a policy for nationals of those countries. For example, there is a concession currently in force in respect of Syria, which allows persons who would otherwise have had to leave the UK and apply from Syria, to apply from within the UK. Those with leave are likely to be granted an extension of that leave even where they do not meet all the requirements of the Rule, because of the current country situation in Syria.
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