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Assyrian Refugees Expelled From Sweden — Fleeing Again

ICC Note

Sweden is sending back some Iraqi refugees to their country. Most of the expelled refugees are Christians who face danger to their lives in Iraq .

By Nuri Kino and Susan Ritzén

08/10/2009 Iraq (AINA)-More than two years after the Swedish Supreme Court of Migration decided there was no “inner armed conflict” in Iraq, and Sweden started the largest expulsion of any nationality that has ever taken place in the country, a Swedish Radio News investigation for SR’s Ekot uncovers the grim truth about the new asylum policies in Sweden. Unique documents, a hidden microphone and a whistle blower reveal a new Swedish asylum policy of which most people are unaware.

For four months we have been interviewing 52 Iraqi citizens, all non-Muslim and most of them Christian Assyrians (also known as Chaldeans and Syriacs). These non-muslim minorities make up a large part of the Iraqi refugees in Sweden , maybe as much as 30-50 percent, although there are no official statistics.

Some of the asylum seekers are now forced into hiding to avoid being sent back to Iraq , a country where only half the number of the Christians and other non-Muslims from before 2003 remain. Few non-Muslim Iraqis have been willing to return voluntarily. Many Christians are also afraid of the new tensions between the Kurdish provinces and the Baghdad government, and that a rising conflict between the two will put the large minority of Christians residing in the Nineveh Plains directly on the fault line.

We have followed 25 Christian Assyrians who were forcibly returned to Iraq , 16 adults and 7 children. All but one are now on the run again from widespread persecution in Iraq . The Christians we are interviewing have ended up in varying difficult situations in 3 of the neighbouring countries of Iraq , trying to register as asylum seekers once again. They are now in the same countries where Sweden is choosing other vulnerable UN refugees to give protection to in Sweden .

Jabil, a 30-year man hiding in Mosul , is the only one still left in Iraq — without a passport or any means to get one issued in Baghdad . He says that he doesn’t know how much longer he can hide. He says he is being chased by the same fundamentalist group who made death threats against him in 2007, forcing him to flee from Iraq . Now he is loosing hope of ever getting out of the country alive. “I have no relatives here, no one at all any more, that can help me.” He says, “I rely on God and on you, that you can get some strength to be able to change things.”

“I live with a friend and cannot leave the house, it’s very dangerous here. I am threatened, in fear of being killed. Honestly, I cannot go out, if I do I’ll be killed.”

Jabil fled from his home town Mosul in March 2007 after he was threatened by militant Islamists. We have followed him since he was arrested by the Swedish police in the north Swedish city of Sundsvall on February 6th of this year and was subsequently forcibly expelled to Baghdad .

“We arrived at the airport and the Swedish policemen handed my papers to Iraqi immigration and then left in a hurry. I told the Iraqi officer that I was being returned against my will, that I was terrified since I was Christian and came from Mosul . He said, condescendingly, that he couldn’t care less.”

It has been well documented that Christian and other religious minorities are vulnerable to systematic persecution. The population of Christians in Iraq has been halved since 2003. After a local threat in Mosul in October of last year that all the Christians would be killed; around 1500 families immediately fled the city. A Christian ‘crystal night’!

Despite the well documented systematic violence against non-Muslims in Iraq, the news stories of sectarian persecution that appear almost every day in the Swedish press, the Swedish authorities appear to wear blinders as to what is happening in the Middle East and continue expelling Christian Iraqis back to the country of their murderers. Ekot has followed 25 Christian Assyrians who have been expelled to Baghdad . All of whom have fled from Iraq once again.

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