Sharp increase in asylum seeker deportations

Sharp increase in asylum seeker deportations
The number of asylum seekers deported from Sweden rose by 1,300 during 2009, according to new figures from the Swedish Migration Agency (Migrationsverket).

Following an announcement earlier last year by migration minister Tobias Billström, that 2009 would be “return home year” for many asylum seekers, the numbers of deportations from Sweden increased to 10,700, compared to 9,400 the previous year, Sveriges Radio (SR) reports. The numbers of deportations involving the use of force also increased by 500 to 2,200 cases.

The Church of Sweden (Svenska Kyrkan), which offers support and advice to refugees, has criticized the upturn in expulsions.

“What was most noticeable was the use of chartered planes to Iraq. This was a new way of enforcing deportation – filling chartered planes with deported asylum seekers,” Kristina Hellqvist, responsible for refugee issues at the Church of Sweden, told Sveriges Radio (SR).

“You get an ultimatum: sign a document that you are prepared to return willingly or your case becomes a matter for the police.”

During 2009 the national migration agency received extra funding to accelerate the repatriation of asylum seekers whose applications to stay in Sweden had been rejected.

“For me it is obvious that if your asylum application has not been accepted then you must return home. In that sense every year is ‘return home year’,” said Billström.