Iraqi ambassador denies passport accusations

Iraq's ambassador to Sweden was called to the foreign ministry on Wednesday amid reports Iraq's Stockholm embassy had issued some 26,000 passports on false grounds, the ministry said.

“The ambassador said the reports were false and he denied the embassy was involved in any wrongdoing,” ministry spokesman Andre Mkandawire told AFP.

Swedish free daily Metro on Wednesday reported that the Iraqi embassy in Stockholm had issued some 26,000 passports in the past two years without carrying out sufficiently rigorous identity checks.

The paper quoted Swedish Migration Board officials as saying they had information that people from Syria, Iran, Turkey and Lebanon were being told that they could apply for Iraqi passports at the Iraqi embassy in Stockholm.

Passports were issued to asylum seekers to Sweden and Norway through the Stockholm embassy, the paper alleged.

Asylum seekers are not required to hold passports on their arrival in Sweden, according to the Migration Board.

“We are concerned that there have been lapses in processing passports at the Stockholm embassy,” Migration Board spokeswoman Marie Andersson told AFP.

Ambassador Ahmad Bamerni reiterated his rejection of the reports at a press conference held at the Iraqi embassy after his meeting at the foreign ministry, Swedish news agency TT reported.

“It is incorrect that we would issue passports to non-Iraqis,” Bamerni said.

The embassy carried out strict checks on all those who applied for passports, he added.

If the embassy was not entirely satisfied with the identification papers presented by passport applicants, they were returned to Iraq, Bamerni said.

The issue was now a matter for the justice ministry, Swedish foreign ministry official Mkandawire said.

Swedish Migration Minister Tobias Billström discussed the matter during talks in the Norwegian capital Oslo with the Labour and Social Inclusion Minister Bjarne Haakon Hanssen on Wednesday.

Ambassador Bamerni was to meet Billström to discuss the issue in early February, TT reported.