Anew policy in Iraq has forced Denmark to stop its practice of repatriating Iraqi refugees against their will.
Thousands of Iraqis fled their country to Europe after the US-led invasion in 2003. Since 2009, the number of Iraqi asylum seekers in Danish refugee centres has fallen drastically because many of them have been repatriated.
But the government in Iraq is refusing to let European countries force back thousands of Iraqis against their will after their requests for asylum have been denied. Baghdad has even threatened to fine airlines that participate in the return efforts.
Iraq’s embassy in Copenhagen has also begun refusing to grant travel permits to Iraqis that don’t want to return home, much to the consternation of the Danish immigration authorities.
Since the autumn of 2011, no Iraqis have been forcibly repatriated, according to police immigration unit NUC, and with the new Iraqi stance it has become virtually impossible to send asylum seekers back unless they go voluntarily.
“I feel that we have, or rather have had, a good relationship with the Iraqi authorities. But in my eyes the agreement with Iraq still stands,” Claus Birkelyng, NUC vice-police, told Politiken newspaper. “There have been no changes to the agreement, but it clearly makes it more difficult for us to return them when they don’t want to take them back.”
Over the past year, a number of legal disputes over forcible repatriations has led the United Kingdom to stop its practice of sending Iraqis home.
And this is good news, according to the London-based International Federation of Iraqi Refugees (IFIR), an organisation campaigning against forcible repatriations to Iraq.
“This is a great victory for Iraqi refugees, who are the victims of war and oppression. Denmark and Norway have been sending refugees back by force recently. They will now have to stop,” IFIR spokesperson, Dashty Jamal told The Guardian.
“I understand some people have already been turned back at the border since the weekend”.
The deportation issue follows in the wake of the high-profile case involving asylum seekers from a number of countries, slated for deportation, taking refuge in a church in Copenhagen while staging a hunger strike to draw attention to their situation. The incident prompted asylum seekers throughout Denmark to protest.
In a message to parliament, Morten Bødskov (Socialdemokraterne) indicated that immigration officials are currently working with Iraq to find a solution.