YLE: Iraqi returnees
Describing it as “significant” for Finland, Helsingin Sanomat says that the EU Commission has started negotiations with Iraq on an agreement that would facilitate the return of Iraqi citizens whose applications for asylum in EU countries have been rejected.
Finland has been attempting unsuccessfully to work out such an agreement with Iraq.
A record number of asylum seekers came to Europe in 2015. The majority of the over 30,000 who arrived in Finland were from Iraq.
Since then, thousands have had their applications for asylum rejected.
The Iraqi government has repeatedly refused the forced repatriation of these people. It has, however, taken a more positive position on voluntary returns. Last year over 1000 Iraqis returned home from Finland voluntarily.
Late last month, the EU Commission called for the creation of a mechanism for the “dignified, safe and organised” return of Iraqi citizens. According to Helsingin Sanomat, Iraqi officials have continued to voice opposition to an agreement. It is seen as a sensitive matter in internal politics. On the other hand, Iraq has been attempting to use the issue to pressure for a normalising of relations with the EU and for more reconstruction aid.
Last year, Finland returned 140 people to Iraq, and police officials told Helsingin Sanomat that this year, two or three a week have been forcibly returned.
Right now, there are around 1,700 people in Finland who have been ordered to leave the country after having their asylum applications rejected. Most are from Iraq.
In practice, an agreement would speed the process of acquiring travel documents and allow for charter flights to be used to transport returnees.
Human rights organisations have criticised EU governments for carrying out the forced return of rejected asylum seekers, especially to Afghanistan.
It is the position of the Finnish Immigration Service that Iraqi citizens can be safely returned to the country’s capital, Baghdad.