On June 25, 2009 Denmark deported six Iraqis back to Baghdad that had failed to gain asylum there. The Danish government has plans to deport 244 more. This follows an agreement signed in May 2009 between Iraq and Denmark to repatriate Iraqis who had their asylum requests rejected. The Danes are concerned about the flow of Iraqis to their country, and have been working on limiting their arrival since the beginning of the year. The Danish immigration service claims that Iraqis are traveling back and forth between the two countries, which proves that they are not refugees fleeing violence. The Danish National Police has been monitoring the movement of Iraqis since 2000, and claimed 370 visited Iraq since 2003. On Baghdad’s side, the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is hoping to get Iraqi refugees to return, and close the file on the issue by the end of 2009. Maliki’s main motivation seems to be improving the image of Iraq, rather than the plight of the displaced.
Various human rights groups, the United Nations High Commission on Refugees, and the Iraqi Minister of Displacement and Migration are all against this policy. The Displacement Minister said that Iraq’s Foreign Minister signed this deal with Denmark without consulting him. As a sign of protest Baghdad International Airport and Kurdistan originally said that they would not accept any flight that included Iraqis forced to return to the country.
The amount of refugees in Denmark seems like an infinitesimal amount when considering the fact that Iraq has 2 million refugees. Iraqis however have been the largest group seeking asylum in other countries for the last two years. Most of them have tried to go to either Europe or the United States. None of these states have been enthusiastic about receiving them. As early as 2007 some European countries began deporting Iraqis as a result. The Iraqi government has also been pushing for their countrymen to come home for political purposes. Together this led to the Norwegian agreement. Despite the improved security very few of Iraq’s refugees have gone back, and the United Nations says it is still not time for them to return. It seems that forcing Iraqis home at this point is premature as so much is still unresolved right now. No one powerful seems to care about Iraq’s displaced however, so other countries may follow Denmark’s example in the future.
Agence France Presse, “Denmark, Iraq reach deal to repatriate Iraqi refugees,” 5/14/09
Alsumaria, “Iraqi Minister urges Denmark not to rush Iraqis refugees return,” 6/19/09
DPA, “Denmark begins forced deportation of Iraqis,” 6/25/09
Ferris, Elizabeth, “The Looming Crisis: Displacement and Security in Iraq,” Brookings Institution, August 2008
Middle East Online, “Iraqi refugees scoff at boasts of improved security,” 3/19/08
RC News, “Ministry to investigate refugee trips to Iraq,” 6/11/09
Reilly, Corinne, “Prospects are dismal for returning Iraqi refugees,” McClatchy Newspapers, 5/22/09