Police release most Iraqi deportee protesters

Police release most Iraqi deportee protesters
Iraqi refugees at Migrationsverket custody centre in Märsta, November
Swedish police said they have released 24 of the 25 people who had protested outside an asylum seeker detention centre Stockholm early Wednesday, where they were reportedly trying to stop a mass deportation to Iraq.

Police were still holding one unidentified person, but had released the other 24 shortly after removing them from the protest site, Stockholm police spokesman Ulf Göranzon told AFP.

The 25 were reportedly part of a group of between 50 and 100 protesters demonstrating outside the detention centre near Stockholm in a bid to block the deportation of up to 20 Iraqis denied asylum in Sweden.

The Swedish section of Amnesty International, which has asked Immigration Minister Tobias Billström to halt the return of Iraqis, said some 14 people would be sent back Wednesday, while tabloid Aftonbladet said 20 Iraqis would be on the plane. Swedish border police refused to say if the deportation had taken place.

Wednesday’s arrests came a day after some 70 people were detained after demonstrating outside offices of the Swedish National Migration Board (Migrationsverket) near the southwestern city of Gothenburg and amid rising criticism of the deportations.

In addition to Amnesty, the Christian Council of Sweden has called for a suspension of deportations to Iraq, especially of members of ethnic or religious minority groups in that country.

The United Nation’s refugee agency, UNHCR, on Tuesday expressed strong concern at reports that Sweden planned to send 25 Iraqis back to Baghdad despite repeated warnings that conditions are unsafe there.

The agency has over the past year repeatedly cautioned the UK and several Nordic nations not to send Iraqis back to central parts of Iraq because of persistent violence.

Swedish immigration authorities ruled in 2007 that “there is no armed conflict in Iraq” and that it was therefore acceptable to return Iraqi citizens to their country. The ruling meant that Iraqis were no longer automatically granted asylum.

Tens of thousands of Iraqis have fled the war in their country to resettle in Sweden, with official statistics showing 117,900 people born in Iraq lived in the Scandinavian country in 2009, up from 49,400 in 2000.

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