Last Wednesday 20 Iraqis, including five Christians, were put on a plane back to Iraq.
“I am concerned since this is not the first time that Sweden has forcibly sent back refugees to Iraq,” Council of Europe parliamentary assembly chair Mevlüt Cavusoglu said in a statement.
“This has occurred notwithstanding the unequivocal position of UNHCR.”
The UN refugee agency UNHCR also expressed its dismay over the new deportations, and pleaded with Sweden to stop them.
“UNHCR strongly reiterates its call on countries to refrain from deporting Iraqis who originate from the most perilous parts of the country,” UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming told journalists in Geneva on Friday.
“This forced return comes at a time when our five offices in Iraq are noting a significant increase in Christians fleeing Baghdad and Mosul to the Kurdistan Regional Government Region and Ninewa plains [in the north].”
She added that the current exodus began following an al-Qaeda attack on a Baghdad church in October.
Despite international concern about the resumed deportations, Swedish migration minister Tobias Billström refused to wade into the matter, instructing his press secretary Edvard Unsgaard to direct questions about Iraqi deportations to the Migration Board (Migrationsverket).
“Because we have independent courts and agencies which make decisions on these matters, it is they who make these assessments,” Unsgaard told the TT news agency.
The government and the Riksdag are only responsible for making laws and rules, Unsgaard continued, pointing out that ministers aren’t supposed to get involved in an agency’s assessments.
“When Sweden is criticised it’s for the assessments that have been made. And it’s the Migration Board that has made those assessments so the Migration Board must answer as to why they’ve made those assessments,” said Unsgaard, who emphasised that the deportation decision shouldn’t be considered the policy of Sweden as a whole.
“Sweden has no general position; it’s the individual agencies that make these assessments. We can’t answer specific cases,” he said.
According to Cavusoglu with the Council of Europe, the European Court of Human Rights is currently “inundated” with cases dealing with Iraqis in Sweden.
He urged Sweden to give the court more time to review the cases before resuming the deportation of Iraqis.
“It might transpire that requests of some of the returnees have not yet been dealt by the Court,” he concluded,” he said.