Sweden to prioritize deportations in 2009

Swedish police are mulling chartering special planes in anticipation of the government’s wishes to step up the pace of deportations of the thousands of unsuccessful asylum seekers estimated to be in the country.

“2009 is going to be a tough year for a lot of people,” said Dan Eliasson, the head of the Swedish Migration Board (Migrationsverket), to the TT news agency.

On Tuesday, a Swedish charter plane landed in Baghdad carrying twelve people whose asylum claims had been denied by Sweden.

Ahead of the trip, the twelve had been taken to Stockholm’s Arlanda airport from Örebro and Västerås in central Sweden, Gävle on the country’s east coast, Växjö in south central Sweden, as well as from Malmö and Stockholm.

The trip was the first of its kind to Iraq from Sweden.

A few weeks ago, a similar transport was arranged to Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia to return 42 rejected asylum seekers.

“We’re going to have more missions like this. The government has said that 2009 will be the year of the return, which puts the burden on us to bring a lot of people to their respective homelands,” said Peter Nilsson of the border police in Stockholm County.

So far most deportees have been returned piecemeal when space was available to regular commercial flights. But airline pilots are loathe to accept passengers which put up a struggle when brought on board their aircraft.

“A lot of people have learned that lesson. These are people who don’t want to return voluntarily. That’s why we’re doing these kinds of collective trips — to make it safer, more dignified, and more economic,” said Nilsson.

The Migration Board’s Eliasson reckons that 2009 will be a busy year, especially for the police.

“Many who have had their applications denied should go home, and many of them don’t want to. That’s understandable, as they often return to a life with difficult conditions. The police have a very difficult task. I’m expecting people to raise the bar, and that’s what’s on the way,” said Eliasson.

Neither the police nor the Migration Board will reveal just how long the list of deportees is, however.