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UNHCR Urges Sweden Not to Deport Iraqis

The U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) says it is concerned by reports Sweden plans to forcibly deport 25 Iraqis to Baghdad on Wednesday. The agency says among those slated to be sent back are religious and ethnic groups targeted by violence in Iraq.

The agency is careful not to accuse the Swedish government of being in breech of the 1951 Refugee Convention. But spokeswoman Melissa Fleming says the lives of the Iraqis, who include several Christians and one Turkman, will be put in danger if they are sent back to their country.

“They, and others slated for return, appear to have profiles that would warrant protection under the 1951 Refugee Convention or the European Union’s Qualification Directive," said Fleming. "We are troubled that our advice, including on the situation of minorities in Iraq, is not sufficiently taken into account by Sweden when reviewing negative decisions that were made in 2008 and 2009. We believe that the recent deterioration in the situation of minorities in Iraq has not been adequately taken into account.”

Last year, the UNHCR says European countries deported 413 Iraqis on 10 flights. This year, it says 51 Iraqi asylum seekers on one flight have been deported.

The refugee agency acknowledges some parts of Iraq are relatively safe. But it says governorates in central Iraq, as well as in northern Kirkuk Province are not.

Fleming says the cities of Baghdad, Diyala, Newa and Salah-al-Din are so dangerous the UNHCR does not recommend failed asylum seekers be sent there. She notes many of those being returned on Wednesday come from these areas.

“Given the situation from which these people come from, perhaps their asylum claims might be reviewed ... In our judgment in general these are places where there is a lot of persecution, where there is a lot of violence and particularly for religious minorities it is a very difficult situation,” she said.

Fleming says a number of Iraqi refugees who have been deported by Sweden and other European countries have again fled violence in their country. She says many have gone to Syria, Jordan and Turkey.