The first repatriation of former Iraqi asylum seekers took place in Finland, as a plane with just over 100 Iraqi people performed a nonstop flight from Helsinki to Baghdad on Thursday.
Finish YLE website reported that the repatriation flight was organized by the Finnish police and in the plane, a dozen of Finnish police officers were present. According to the website, the Iraqi people were voluntarily repatriated, with most of them cancelling their asylum applications in Finland.
Reuter’s news agency quoted Iraqi foreign ministry official Ahmed Jammal who said that the repatriation flights from Finland will continue, on a weekly basis, bringing to Iraq 100-150 people per flight.
A week ago, Reuters reported that thousands of Iraqi refugees who arrived in Finland in 2015 have decided to cancel their asylum applications and to return home voluntarily, due to family reasons and the difficulties in starting a new life in Finland.
“Some say the conditions in Finland and the lengthy asylum process did not meet their expectations, or what they had been told by the people they paid for their travel,” told Reuters Tobias van Treeck, program officer at the International Organization for Migration (IOM). British daily, The Telegraph, also reported that some of the Iraqi asylum seekers couldn’t find a decent job in the Nordic country.
YLE reported that the Finnish authorities said that more than 4,100 Iraqi asylum seekers have cancelled their applications and the number will probably rise to 5,000 this spring. According to YLE, most of the 32,500 asylum seekers who arrived in Finland last year were from Iraq. On the other hand, only 22 of 877 Syrians and 35 of the 5,214 Afghans who sought asylum in Finland last year have asked to return to their home country.
In 2015, Finnish authorities repatriated 3180 people. The number sent back in January this year was 20 percent higher than a year earlier.