A group of Iraqi men staged a demonstration in Helsinki on Monday to protest a freeze by immigration officials on decisions regarding applications by asylum seekers from Iraq and Somalia.
Late last month, the Finnish Immigration Service launched a review of its guidelines on asylum seekers from Iraq and Somalia and freezing current applications from Somalis and Iraqis.
Many asylum seekers from Baghdad and the central regions of Iraq have been granted protection in Finland, in contrast to some EU countries, which return some refugees to regions deemed to be safe. Finland is looking to bring its practices in line with the rest of Europe, meaning a tougher approach for refugees who have arrived this year. The decision may mean higher numbers of deportations.
A group of 300 Iraqi asylum seekers in Finland on Monday issued an appeal to the Finnish people and government asking for protection and asylum. Members of the group held a press conference for the media where they painted a picture of Iraq, and especially its capital Baghdad, as dangerous areas characterized by arbitrary violence.
Following the press gathering a number of the asylum seekers staged a demonstration near Parliament.
«I’d rather die than go back»
Of late, Finland has seen the arrival of an especially high number of asylum seekers from Baghdad. According to the organization Vapaa Liikkuvuus-Free Movement Network Helsinki, these people now fear that in future, Finland will include Baghdad on its list of safe areas.
One Iraqi asylum seeker, Ahmed Shukr, who arrived in Helsinki less than a month ago, told the Finnish media that he considers Baghdad to be a battlefield.
«I’d rather die than go back there,» said Shukr.
He claims that the Iraqi government presents false information about the security situation in the country.
«They [the government] are gangsters. They make fighters of Iraqis who split Iraq in two. Don’t believe their statements,» Ahmed Shukr added.
Discrimination against single men
A 27 year-old asylum seeker from Baghdad indentified as «Saad» said that he suffered from discrimination not only because of his religion, but also because he is an unmarried man.
«I have not had a flat for five years because it is difficult for single men to get one in the rental market. For five years I’ve lived with various families,» he explained.
Saad was repatriated back to Baghdad after awaiting asylum in Sweden for around three years.
«After I was sent back, the police suspected me of being a terrorist and I was tortured for two weeks. This, even though there was an agreement with the government that the life of returnees would be secure,» Saad continued. We do not understand how Finland can be negotiating a readmission agreement with the Iraqi government.»