Since almost three years ago when Sweden signed a treaty, almost 5,000 Iraqis have volontarily returned to Iraq but 800 Iraqi asylum seekers have been forced to return to their home country.
In an interview with Sveriges Radio yesterday, the Iraqi ambassador in Stockholm Hussain Al-Ameri questioned how the Swedish authorities have interpreted the memorandum of understanding between Sweden and Iraq.
- The Iraqi government is ready to accept those who come back volontarily but there are some question marks around forced deportations, Hussain Al-Ameri said to Sveriges Radio in the programme Konflikt.
But Sweden's Minister for Migration and Asylum Policy sees no reason to stop the forced deportations and mentions also that Iraq has not requested a renegotiation of the memorandum of understanding between the two countries.
- The co-operation between Swedish and Iraqi authorities has worked very well, Billström says to Newspaper Svenska Dagbladet (SvD).
In the bilateral treaty between Iraq and Sweden, it says that Iraqis which according to Swedish authorities do not need protection and do not want to return volontarily can "be ordered to leave Sweden". But the return shall be made "step by step, in a humane way and in ordered procedures.
Minister Billström says to SvD that Sweden does grant asylum to persons who are judged to be in need of protection, but also that those who are not will leave the country.
- Just like any other country, Sweden must have the right to decide who can reside on its territory, says Billström to Svd.
"Impossible for us to go back"
The deportations to Iraq are made with specially chartered planes. In November 2010, a plane with 30 Iraqi asylum seekers was stopped after a request from the European Court of Justice. In mid-December, the deportations started again when 20 Iraqis was flown to Baghdad.
According to Svenska Dagbladet, the next plane with Iraqis will depart the 19 January. Selam Albear Alsousi and Vivyan Hikmat and their three children, a Catholic family from Baghdad, fear for their lives if they are not granted asylum in Sweden.
- If we are forced to return to Baghdad, we would be killed. The situation is very dangerous right now for Christians in Iraq, says Vivyan Hikmat to SvD.
The family was denied asylum in November but the Euopean Court of Justice intervened. Since then, the deportation was temporarily cancelled after a decision in the Euorpean Court. The family is now awaiting a new decision from the Migration Board.
- We are still worried. It is impossible for us to return to Iraq, says Vivyan Hikmat to SvD.