Refugees forced back to a still-violent Iraq, prompting criticism of European policy
Three days after Ali Jassim Mohammed returned to Baghdad to get documents for his Swedish residency application, he was caught in a bombing on his way to the passport office.
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Europe ignores warnings of Iraqi violence
His case illustrates a growing problem of Sweden and other European countries sending back Iraqis to areas of their homeland that the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) considers unsafe, including the capital. Refugee officials say those flown back from Sweden to Baghdad include Christians from Mosul, where the religious minority has been specifically targeted over the last year.Skip to next paragraph
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Britain, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden have each signed bilateral agreements with the Iraqi government to return failed asylum seekers, says Umran Riza, the United Nations' top refugee official in Jordan, where hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have sought temporary refuge.
“We’ve advised these governments to still be cautious about it and we consider it the wrong message to be sending at this time where there is still a great deal of insecurity,” he said in a recent interview with the Monitor.
The UN automatically considers any Iraqi from central Iraq to be at enough potential risk to be automatically considered a refugee – a position not shared by the Iraqi or many European governments.
“Maybe compared to 2007 it’s better,” says Mohammad. "But it’s not safe – when they are saying it’s safe I think they’re lying to themselves."
Hope for the future in Sweden
Worse than the almost unbearable pain at night or knowing that in the morning he will have to be helped to the bathroom, is that he can no longer play with his two young daughters. He says his 1-year-old doesn’t seem to understand why he can’t pick her up anymore.
“I think that she doesn’t know that I’m her father,” says Mohammad, the thought bringing tears to his eyes.
“Every day I used to wake up and walk and play football even in Sweden," he says. "I took my daughter to preschool every day and when she finished I took her back home and I was full of power and energy and suddenly in one second I can’t do anything."
He hasn’t lost hope for the future. In Sweden, he will be fitted with a prosthetic leg. He hopes to be able to walk again in a year, and then look for work as a cameraman or photographer.
It would be a long shot for anyone, he admits, but “I hope I will succeed one day."