Scores of Iraqi asylum seekers return home from Europe
More than a hundred Iraqi asylum seekers, mostly young men who had sought refuge in Europe landed in Baghdad on a flight from Finland on Thursday.
Some kneeled, kissing the ground, citing the difficulty of living in Europe as the reason for their abrupt return.
"It's too difficult to live there," said one of the women, Um Ealia. "I've come back home. I feel happy. I have good memories in Iraq."
She was just one of 103 people who returned to Iraq on Thursday, according to Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman, Ahmed Jamal.
Many young asylum seekers who had left their families feel northern European countries are anything but the liberal and accepting places they have been portrayed as.
In Finland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark, more and more asylum-seekers want to return home.
Bitterly cold weather, harsh conditions in Scandinavian "detention camps", and lengthy bureaucratic hurdles have left them rejected and disappointed by their host countries.
According to an official from the Swedish immigration department, 668 people withdrew their asylum requests in December.
"The housing conditions, the long periods of waiting and the difficulty of reuniting with their families are among the direct causes," she told The New Arab. The majority are Iraqis.
|It is too difficult to live (in Finland) because our traditions and culture are different
Over the past 12 months thousands of Iraqis are estimated to have returned home from Europe.
Many had made harrowing journeys by sea and land to reach their European destinations in the hope of starting a better and more secure life.
The Geneva-based International Organisation for Migration says it helped nearly 3,500 Iraqis return from Europe in 2015 alone.
But the OIM says that is just a fraction of the total estimated number as many individuals and families return by the own means.
In 2015, an estimated 70,000 Iraqis sought refuge in Europe.
"We are very pleased with the arrival," said Jamal, the foreign ministry spokesman in Baghdad. "Those people represent the first batch of Iraqi migrants in Finland who voluntarily wish to come back home."
The flight was organised by the Helsinki Police Department, which has organised flights for returning migrants for more than a decade.
More than 3,100 Iraqis in Finland have withdrawn their asylum applications since January 2015, but most paid their own way back or caught flights arranged by the European Union from other countries, Immigration officials in Finland said Thursday.
"Thank God we came back home from Finland," said Amir Abbas as he was collecting his luggage at the airport in Baghdad. "It is too difficult to live (in Finland) because our traditions and culture are different," he said.
Agencies contributed to this report