What message does Finland want to send to Iraqi asylum seekers by deporting them to a country that it has no repatriation agreement?

by , under Enrique

The case of two young Iraqis, KM, and SH, who were detained by the police on Friday and who will apparently be deported from the country on Monday are a case in point. To KM and SH, there is another Iraqi national, AM, who will be deported together with KM and SH. All three are being held at the Helsinki detention camp of Metsälä. 

The police, who are carrying out these deportations, will not give for obvious reasons details on how they plan to deport Iraqi nationals who have gotten a negative decision on their asylum applications from the Finnish Immigration Service and district court.

Migrant Tales reported on Friday the detention of two young Iraqi asylum seekers that will be deported. Is this a scare tactic and a clear message by the authorities that they want these people to leave? We believe so. Read the full story here.

Here’s the question: How can Finland deport thousands of Iraqis from Finland if there is no repatriation agreement with Iraq?

The Iraqi Ambassador to Finland, Matheel Chayif Al-Sabti, spoke to Migrant Tales on Wednesday, was clear on the matter:

“The Iraqi government does not accept forced deportations [and] this is officially the position of the Iraqi government now because we know of the [difficult] situation in Iraq…So, now there is nothing that Finland can do to those [Iraqi] people.”

Iraqi Ambassador to FinlandMatheel Chayif Al-Sabti states that the Iraqi government doesn’t accept any forced deportations.

He said that Iraq would not grant permission to any special flight carrying deported Iraqis to land in the country because there is no repatriation agreement or memorandum of understanding with Finland on forcibly returning people to Iraq.

“So now you have to accept this idea [that there is no agreement],”  Al-Sabti continued. “I said it many times to Päivi Nerg, the deputy interior minister, I then said it to Hanna Helinko, the director general of the Finnish Immigration Service, and I said it at all of my meetings with the minister of foreign affairs [Timo Soini] that Iraq will not accept people who are deported.”

The ambassador said that Iraqis who came to Finland from fall 2015 should be accepted as guests taking into account the difficult situation in Iraq.

Al-Sabti went as far as to say that the Iraqi embassy would not even issue any laisse- fair travel documents to Iraqis who refuse to return to their country.

Migrant Tales will publish Thursday a more extensive interview with the Iraqi ambassador.

If we study carefully what officials like Nerg and the Finnish government are saying and what the position of the Iraqi government is concerning forced returns,   detaining and deporting KM, SH and AM could be just another ploy by the authorities to tell Iraqi asylum seekers to leave the country. In other words a bluff.

“The Finnish authorities have done everything possible to make Iraqi asylum seekers feel unwanted in Finland,” an Iraqi asylum seeker said. “They put us in crowded reception centers where the food is bad, there are no realistic chances of finding work [even if they have such a right], long waiting periods for a decision on a person’s asylum case, giving the majority of us negative decisions, declaring that Iraq is a safe country and now throwing people on the street in winter, turn us into undocumented migrants, and now start to deport us by force.”

Finland’s track record as a country that has treated asylum seekers with the dignity they deserve is questionable and even shameful. But what can you expect?

Thanks to the roughly 38,000 asylum seekers that came to Finland in 2015-2016, our inefficient and costly asylum and immigration policy has not only revealed itself to be inefficient but cost taxpayers dearly. Last year, close to a billion euros were budgeted to deal with the asylum seekers situation.

Is spending hundreds of millions of euros just to keep people confined to reception centers for months an effective solution and using scare tactics like deportation now so that asylum seekers leave the country? Or should they, like Ambassador Al-Sabti states, “treat them like guests?” Wouldn’t the money be better spent if they integrated these people and used them to populate parts of Finland?

The fact that the government has taken such a hardline against asylum seekers is certain to backfire in the long run. It’s only a question of time when such a policy will turn into a political embarrassment and liability because it is expensive, ineffective and, most importantly, inhumane.