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Sweden stops plane of deported Iraqis

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Sweden stops plane of deported Iraqis
08:15 CET+01:00
A flight carrying deported Iraqi asylum seekers from Sweden back to Iraq has been cancelled following a request from the European Court of Human Rights that Sweden delay around 150 forced deportations.

The Court's request, received Tuesday night by the Swedish Migration Board (Migrationsverket), covered a number of deportees who were set to board the plane, which had been scheduled to depart on Wednesday morning.

The Migration Board has said previously it can't stop all planned deportations of Iraqis who have had their asylum requests denied, a decision which has been roundly criticised.

The Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland, singled out Sweden in speaking out against reports that member states were preparing to return Iraqi citizens to Iraq in violation of a decision of the European Court of Human Rights.

“The Court has clearly asked Sweden, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom not to proceed with forced return of Iraqis in view of the recent deterioration of the security situation there. All Council of Europe member states must respect the decisions of the Court,” Jagland said in a statement.

The European Court of Human Rights is currently investigating if it's safe for Iraqis, and in particular Iraqi Christians, to be sent back to certain parts of the country, including Baghdad.

As long as the investigation is ongoing, the Court has said that all Iraqis who so desire can have their deportation orders delayed and should be allowed to stay in the countries in which they are seeking refugee status.

“We're doing this as a precautionary measure so that these people don't get in a jam because the Court of Human Rights hasn't had a chance to review their applications,” said Migration Board spokesperson Johan Rahm to the TT news agency regarding the cancellation of Wednesday's flight.

The cancellation of the flight doesn't mean the Migration Board has made a general decision to stop all deportations.

Migration minister Tobias Billström said each case must be assessed individually, even in decisions about whether or not to delay carrying out a deportation ruling.

“To go from individual reviews to collective reviews could result in every person in a group getting rejected or approved. And the question is how just that would be,” he told TT.

According to Billström, the Migration Board has delayed the deportation of Iraqis every time the European Court of Human Rights has requested the agency do so.

As a result, he has a hard time understanding criticism lodged against Sweden by the Council of Europe.

“Sweden has never acted in violation of a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights,” said Billström.

The minister also rejected reports that many Iraqis haven't been informed that they can request to have their deportation rulings delayed.

“Several Swedish agencies provide information on how and where people can complain to the Court of Human Rights; it's not like we're withholding information,” he said.

The Migration Board said on Tuesday that it had stopped the forced deportation of 61 Iraqis who had filed complaints with the European Court of Human Rights.

According to the agency's chief legal officer Mikael Ribbenvik, about half of the Iraqi's who seek asylum in Sweden are allowed to stay.

He also pointed out, however, that Sweden's Migration Court of Appeals ruled in 2007 that there is no longer an armed conflict in Iraq and that the situation has improved since then.

“We're waiting to see how the Court of Human Rights reacts to information about the country we've submitted to them, Ribbenvik told TT.

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