On Tuesday the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri) is expected to announce a stricter security assessment, whereby asylum seekers from some parts of Iraq could be automatically deported.
A few dozen Iraqi asylum seekers held a demonstration in the south-central city of Tampere on Monday, urging against repatriations to their war-torn country. On Tuesday the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri) is expected to announce stricter security assessment, whereby asylum seekers from some parts of Iraq could be automatically deported. The protesters argued that there are no safe segments of the country.
On Monday afternoon a group of Iraqis gathered on Tampere’s main square to protest against plans to repatriate asylum seekers from some provinces of the country. Up until now, Finland has taken a more lenient stance toward Iraqi asylum seekers compared to neighbouring Sweden, which has rejected out of hand applications by people from certain sections of Iraq.
The protesters made shouted slogans in Arabic through megaphones, which were then translated into English to about 100 people gathered to watch the event.
«We’ve come to demonstrate, to call on Finnish officials not to change their minds about deportations,» a man from Baghdad told Yle.
Migri has said it plans to change its security classification for Iraq. The new rules, to be unveiled on Tuesday, are expected to declare that parts of central Iraq that have thus far been considered unsafe will now be classed as safe when considering applications.
Some of the Iraqi asylum seekers said that Baghdad, which lies in the heart of the country and is home to about a quarter of the nation’s population, remains a dangerous place.
«There are many explosions in Baghdad. People are killing each other; it’s not safe,» one protester said. «We don’t want to return to Iraq, because it would be a death sentence,» said another.
The event was arranged by the Free Movement Network. Last week the NGO collected signatures for a petition against the repatriation of Iraqis and staged a similar protest in Helsinki.
«Migri and [Interior Minister] Petteri Orpo have said in advance that the classifications will be changed, so this will certainly happen,» said Elina Niinivaara of the Free Movement Network’s Tampere branch said at the demonstration.
Arrivals slow after freeze
Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees have all declared that the security situation in weak and deteriorating throughout Iraq.
«We should heed this message from the UNHCR and no-one should be sent back,» said Niinivaara.
Most of the asylum seekers who have come to Finland this year are Iraqis – many of them arriving via Sweden. More than 16,000 Iraqis have arrived, or 71 percent of all applicants. In a distant second are the less than 2,000 asylum seekers from Somalia. Fewer than 500 are from Syria.
Late last month, Finland imposed a freeze on asylum applications filed by Iraqis and Somalis until a review determines if some parts of those countries can be considered safe. Since then the number of arrivals has slowed.