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Sweden May Have Illegally Deported Iraqi Refugees

ICC Note

Sweden deported Iraqi refugees, including Christians, back to their country. The illegal deportation endangers the lives of the deportees.

08/28/2009 Iraq (ANIA)-Kalle Larsson, member of the Swedish Parliament for the Left Party and Spokesman on migration and refugees, has called for an investigation of Tobias Billström, Swedish Minister of Migration, following allegations that Iraqi refugees were illegally deported to Iraq . The allegations were detailed in a series of reports for Swedish Public Radio’s news program Ekot by award winning investigative journalist Nuri Kino and his colleague Susan Ritzén.

Sweden and Iraq signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on February 18, 2008 regarding the repatriation of Iraqi refugees from Sweden to Iraq . The MoU outlined criteria and a general process for returning Iraqi refugees ineligible to stay in Sweden to Iraq .

In a letter sent to the Constitutional Committee of the Swedish Parliament, Mr. Larsson accuses Mr. Billström of deliberately misrepresenting the MoU and of carrying out a policy of forced deportation contrary to the agreement. Larsson says in the letter:

However, information has emerged, including an interview with Nuri Kino for Ekot on August 26, 2009, that Iraq does not consider that there is any basis in the MoU for any forceful expulsions. On the contrary the Iraqi Minister of Migration Abdul Samad Sultan Rehman stated to Ekot that “[t]here is no agreement on involuntary expulsions, we do not want to force anyone to return and we will not accept that anyone is involuntarily expelled,” and “We, like all other countries, will not contribute to forced expulsions since it contradicts the human rights. I have difficultly to believe that the Swedish government, which has been so generous to Iraqis and it’s renowned for its humanitarianism, would make use of methods of coercion.”

Larsson calls for an investigation at the end of the letter:

An agreement is valid if both parties agree on its contents, sign and comply with it. At present that is clearly not the case. I call upon the Constitutional Committee to review the statements and actions of Tobias Billström in this regard.

Following a five month investigation, investigative journalist Nuri Kino aired a series of reports on Swedish Public Radio, which prompted Larsson to call for an investigation. The reports (AINA 8-10-2009, 6-18-2009) painted a grim picture of refugees — mostly Christian Assyrians — being forcibly returned to Baghdad with no support or planning.

Nuri Kino followed 25 Assyrian persons and families who were forcibly returned to Iraq . Upon their arrival at Baghdad airport, no arrangements were made to safely transport them to their final destinations. With the threat of kidnapping very high, nearly all stayed at the airport, only to be helped by Assyrians working at the airport, who realized the returnees were Assyrian. Of the 25 who were returned, 24 fled the country again, and one was given refugee status by UNHCR in Ankara , which has acknowledged that it is not safe for Assyrians and other Christians in Iraq .

According to Kino, the criteria by which the Swedish migration board determines that a refugee will not be endangered upon his return to Iraq is arbitrary. In one case, a man fled from Iraq because an attempt was made to murder him and his cousin. While driving with his cousin in Baghdad unknown assailants shot at their car, wounding him and killing his cousin. The Swedish migration board denied his request for asylum, saying that since he had survived he was not in danger and could go back. In another case, a couple were granted asylum because the woman’s brother worked for the Americans and had to hide in the couples house after being threatened by the Mahdi army, but the brother was denied and is now one of thousands hiding in Sweden. In a third case, insurgents threatened an Assyrian man working for the Americans, but the Swedish migration board ruled that since the death threats were anonymous, he was safe to return.

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