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HBL: Finland suspends asylum seeker deportations to Iraq

News of the Iraqi deportation hold comes after a September decision to suspend deportations to Afghanistan in light of renewed violence in the country.

Pääosin miehiä seisomassa puvut yllään.
The newly-elected Iraqi Parliament held its first session on 3 September. Image: STR / EPA

Finland's Police have suspended all deportations of Iraqi asylum seekers who have received a negative asylum decision from the Finnish authorities, reports Finland's leading Swedish-language newspaper Huvudstadsbladet.

The paper says that the Iraqi deportations have been suspended since the start of October.

The police in Finland have deported 150 Iraqi citizens so far this year, 128 of which were returned to Iraq. Almost all of these deportations were what are known as forced returns, when the person being deported does not voluntarily leave the country and must be escorted by the police back to their country of origin.

Iraq has refused to enter into an agreement with Finland on forced returns.

"Iraq has said that it will not accept anyone who has not voluntarily returned. For this reason, we are not deporting Iraqi nationals for the time being," said police inspector Ari Jokinen.

Iraq refuses involuntary returns

Over one year ago, the government of Iraq said it was opposed to forced returns in Europe. The situation has led the Finnish police to suspend the deportation of asylum seekers on many occasions.

Finland has tried to reach an agreement on deportations with the Iraqi authorities for several years with no result. The Iraqi policy on forced returns is not confined to just Finland.

Police inspector Jokinen says the rejected asylum seekers that were awaiting a forced return will now very likely be freed from police custody. They will lose the services that were associated with the reception centres they were living at, and become in effect undocumented immigrants.

"They can still choose the alternative to return to Iraq voluntarily. Iraq will probably gladly take them back," he says.

Finland's Police made the decision in early September to suspend Afghan asylum decisions due to considerable deterioration of the security situation there. It put a hold on deportations while it reassesses its Afghan asylum policy. Jokinen says that the Finnish authorities had carried out very few forced returns to Afghanistan in the months preceding the decision.

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