Last Updated: Thursday, 27 November 2014, 13:39 GMT

Iraq: Security procedures involved in crossing the border from southern Iraq into the Kurdish-controlled territories of northern Iraq

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 1 April 2003
Citation / Document Symbol IRQ41049.E
Reference 5
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Iraq: Security procedures involved in crossing the border from southern Iraq into the Kurdish-controlled territories of northern Iraq, 1 April 2003, IRQ41049.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3f7d4db27.html [accessed 27 November 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Human Rights Watch reported that in 1999, "[t]he border between the government-controlled and autonomous regions remained relatively porous, and many Iraqis reportedly traveled to the north and back with little hindrance" (2000).

A 2000 country report on Iraq, published by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Austrian Centre for Country of Origin and Asylum Research Documentation (ACCORD) for the 6th European Country of Origin Information Seminar in Vienna on 13 to 14 November 2000 provides information on checkpoints along the border between northern and southern Iraq, which includes specific information on security procedures. Please refer to attached excerpt for this information.

In November 2001, the Danish Immigration Service published its Report on Fact-Finding Mission to Iraq, which, among other things, discusses freedom of movement in Iraq, including movement between government-controlled and Kurdish-controlled parts of the country. For this information, please refer to the attached excerpt.

From 26 May to 4 June 2002, the Danish Immigration Service set off on a joint fact-finding mission with the British, this time to Amman and Ankara regarding Iraqi asylum seekers (Denmark 27 Aug. 2002). The delegation found that "[t]here is no closed border between the north and south but just a line of control that can be penetrated" (ibid., 6.4). The report also states that although there are 10 checkpoints when crossing the north-south border (ibid.), "Iraqis regularly return to northern Iraq in the summer time for holidays" (ibid., 6.7). According to the report, if Iraqis return for short periods of time "then nobody cares" (ibid., 6.4). The delegation also found that "[t]he KDP is more stringent in checking names of returnees to ensure they are from northern Iraq and not the south" (ibid.) and "[t]he PUK are more flexible on humanitarian grounds" (ibid., 6.7).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

Denmark. 27 August 2002. Danish Immigration Service. Joint British-Danish Fact Finding Mission to Amman and Ankara Regarding Iraqi Asylum Seekers: 26 May - 4 June 2002. [Accessed 5 Jan. 2003]

Human Rights Watch (HRW). 2000. Human Rights Watch World Report 2000. [Accessed 28 Mar. 2003]

Additional Sources Consulted

NEXIS

Internet sites, including:

European Country of Origin Information Network

International Crisis Group. 1 October 2002. Iraq Backgrounder:What Lies Beneath.

Kurdish Human Rights Project

NOAS and Norwegian Refugee Council. June 2001. Report from Fact-Finding Mission to Northern Iraq.

Norwegian Refugee Council/Global IDP Project

United Kingdom, Immigration and Nationality Directorate

Electronic Attachments

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees/Austrian Centre for Country of Origin and Asylum Research and Documentation (UNHCR/ACCORD). 13 November 2000. "Iraq: Country Report." Presentation by Hania Mufti of Human Rights Watch, with additional remarks from Akif Atli of UNHCR to the 6th European Country of Origin Information Seminar, Vienna, 13-14 November 2000. [Accessed 28 Mar. 2003]

– Historical and political background

...

The last checkpoint of the Iraqi government is at Fayda which is the main entry into Northern Iraq and hence also the main trade way. The security control there is quite tough. Another entry is located at Kuysanjaq leading into Arbil. Another checkpoint can be found between Kirkuk and Sulaymaniyah, still another one at Chamchamal. This one was not so much in use until 1999 when the relations between PUK and the government developed. At checks one of course has to fulfill certain criteria for going to Northern Iraq. Either one goes there for family visits or one goes back home after having been to the government-controlled areas for a particular reason. In all other cases one should give an explanation (e.g. commercial/trade activities) and have a permit from the military authority to get through the customs. It is not necessarily the case that the terrain beside these checkpoints is heavily mined. There are some routes that smugglers use which are obviously not mined whereas there are some parts of Northern Iraq which are definitely mined.

While at the described places there are regular, routine checkpoints day and night, the Security Department or the military may set up checkpoints at any time and place in the government-controlled areas, even in Baghdad, depending on the security situation. There is regular human traffic between the two sides. Kurds go and see relatives in Baghdad and people from Baghdad visit their families in Arbil, even though it is not a very pleasant trip. People will also travel to Baghdad for medical checks. Civilian movement from Northern Iraq to government-controlled areas and vice versa is possible. Arabs also went to Arbil to see if they could get their property back after 1991. However, those who are wanted or are politically active in the northern parties are not recommended to make this trip, unless it is arranged with the Iraqi government itself. ...

Denmark. November 2001. Danish Immigration Service. Report on Fact Finding Mission to Iraq: 8-15 March 2001. [Accessed 28 Mar. 2003]

3.1 Freedom of movement between Government-controlled Iraq and Kurdish-controlled Northern Iraq

According to an international humanitarian organisation, the border is not visible in the form of barbed wire or mined areas. It is possible to cross the border on foot, and to travel between the Kurdish-controlled areas and Government-controlled Iraq is becoming increasingly easy. The same source also said that there is little interaction between the Kurdish-controlled areas and the rest of Iraq.

Various Western diplomatic representations and international humanitarian organisations agreed that it is possible for Iraqi citizens to move between Government-controlled Iraq and the Kurdish-controlled region in Northern Iraq. However, one source said that Arab Iraqis are not able to travel between the two areas.

A Western diplomatic representation said that when travelling between Government-controlled Iraq and the Kurdish-controlled areas, a small sum of money is paid at the internal border to both Iraqi and Kurdish border authorities. According to the same source, the trip from Baghdad to the Kurdish-controlled areas can be made by taxi, private car or bus to e.g. Mosul in Government-controlled Northern Iraq and from there to e.g. Arbil in Kurdish-controlled Northern Iraq.

An employee of an international humanitarian organisation said that Iraqis from Government-controlled Iraq have no problems visiting relatives in Kurdish-controlled Northern Iraq. At the border ID is presented and a small sum of money may be paid. Another international humanitarian organisation said that it is possible for some Iraqi citizens to travel from Northern Iraq to Central or Southern Iraq, while other Iraqi citizens are unable to do so. Another Western diplomatic representation said that Iraqi citizens are free to travel to Kurdish-controlled Northern Iraq unless they are included in a list of wanted persons. The same source said that a small sum of money is paid at the border.

According to a Western diplomatic representation, the internal border between the two regions can be crossed by taxi by paying between IQD 1 000 and 2 000 Iraqi (USD 0,5 - 1) at the border crossing point. The same source said that the crossing point can sometimes be closed, and added that it is easier to travel from Northern Iraq to Baghdad than vice versa.

An employee of a Western diplomatic representation said that only Kurdish Iraqis are free to travel back and forth between Kurdish-controlled Northern Iraq and Government-controlled Iraq. According to the same source, Arab Iraqis do not have the same freedom. However, an employee of an international humanitarian organisation stated that Iraqi citizens are free to move between government-controlled Iraq and Kurdish-controlled Northern Iraq regardless of their ethnic origin. The same source stressed that Arab Iraqis are also able to travel between the two regions. The employee in question travels between the two regions in connection with his work for an international humanitarian organisation.

An international humanitarian organisation said that it can be difficult for non-Iraqi employees of international organisations to travel to Northern Iraq. Several Western diplomatic representations said that diplomats are currently unable to obtain permission to travel to the Kurdish-controlled region.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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