Sweden slammed for new Iraqi deportations

Sweden’s migration minister has refused to respond to concerns from the United Nations and the Council of Europe about Sweden’s decision to resume the deportation of Iraqis.

Sweden slammed for new Iraqi deportations

Last Wednesday 20 Iraqis, including five Christians, were put on a plane back to Iraq.

“I am concerned since this is not the first time that Sweden has forcibly sent back refugees to Iraq,” Council of Europe parliamentary assembly chair Mevlüt Cavusoglu said in a statement.

“This has occurred notwithstanding the unequivocal position of UNHCR.”

The UN refugee agency UNHCR also expressed its dismay over the new deportations, and pleaded with Sweden to stop them.

“UNHCR strongly reiterates its call on countries to refrain from deporting Iraqis who originate from the most perilous parts of the country,” UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming told journalists in Geneva on Friday.

“This forced return comes at a time when our five offices in Iraq are noting a significant increase in Christians fleeing Baghdad and Mosul to the Kurdistan Regional Government Region and Ninewa plains [in the north].”

She added that the current exodus began following an al-Qaeda attack on a Baghdad church in October.

Despite international concern about the resumed deportations, Swedish migration minister Tobias Billström refused to wade into the matter, instructing his press secretary Edvard Unsgaard to direct questions about Iraqi deportations to the Migration Board (Migrationsverket).

“Because we have independent courts and agencies which make decisions on these matters, it is they who make these assessments,” Unsgaard told the TT news agency.

The government and the Riksdag are only responsible for making laws and rules, Unsgaard continued, pointing out that ministers aren’t supposed to get involved in an agency’s assessments.

“When Sweden is criticised it’s for the assessments that have been made. And it’s the Migration Board that has made those assessments so the Migration Board must answer as to why they’ve made those assessments,” said Unsgaard, who emphasised that the deportation decision shouldn’t be considered the policy of Sweden as a whole.

“Sweden has no general position; it’s the individual agencies that make these assessments. We can’t answer specific cases,” he said.

According to Cavusoglu with the Council of Europe, the European Court of Human Rights is currently “inundated” with cases dealing with Iraqis in Sweden.

He urged Sweden to give the court more time to review the cases before resuming the deportation of Iraqis.

“It might transpire that requests of some of the returnees have not yet been dealt by the Court,” he concluded,” he said.

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Lund professor freed student from Islamic State war zone

A chemistry professor at Lund University dispatched a team of mercenaries into an Islamic State (also known as IS, Isis or Daesh) war zone to free one of her doctoral students and his family.

Lund professor freed student from Islamic State war zone
Kurdish pershmerga fighters during the battle to retake the Yazidi homeland Mount Sinjar in 2015. File photo: Bram Jansse/AP/TT
Charlotta Turner, professor in Analytical Chemistry, received a text message from her student Firas Jumaah in 2014 telling her to to assume he would not finish his thesis if he had not returned within a week. 
He and his family were, he told her, hiding out in a disused bleach factory, with the sounds of gunshots from Isis warriors roaming the town reverberating around them. Jumaah, who is from Iraq, is a member of the ethno-religious group Yazidi hated by Isis. 
“I had no hope then at all,” Jumaah told Lund's University Magazine LUM. “I was desperate. I just wanted to tell my supervisor what was happening. I had no idea that a professor would be able to do anything for us.” 
Jumaah had voluntarily entered the war zone after his wife had rung him to say that Isis fighters had taken over the next-door village, killing all the men and taking the women into slavery.
“My wife was totally panicking. Everyone was shocked at how IS were behaving,” he said. “I took the first plane there to be with them. What sort of life would I have if anything had happened to them there?”
But Turner was not willing to leave her student to die without trying to do something. 
“What was happening was completely unacceptable,” she told LUM. “I got so angry that IS was pushing itself into our world, exposing my doctoral student and his family to this, and disrupting the research.” 
She contacted the university's then security chief Per Gustafson.  
“It was almost as if he'd been waiting for this kind of mission,” Turner said. “Per Gustafson said that we had a transport and security deal which stretched over the whole world.” 
Over a few days of intense activity, Gustafson hired a security company which then arranged the rescue operation. 
A few days later two Landcruisers carrying four heavily-armed mercenaries roared into the area where Jumaah was hiding, and sped him away to Erbil Airport together with his wife and two small children. 
“I have never felt so privileged, so VIP,” Jumaah told LUM. “But at the same time I felt like a coward as I left my mother and sisters behind me.” 
Firas Jumaah and his former PHD supervisor Charlotta Turner. Photo: Kennet Ruona
Luckily the rest of his family survived Isis occupation, while Jumaah back in Sweden completed his PhD and now works for a pharmaceuticals company in Malmö. The family has almost finished paying the university back for the rescue operation.
“It was a unique event. As far as I know no other university has ever been involved in anything like it,” Gustafson said.