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Sweden sending Iraqi asylum seekers home. -

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Sweden sending Iraqi asylum seekers home

Broadcast: 25/09/2009

Reporter: Stephanie Kennedy

Since the war in Iraq started in 2003, millions of Iraqi's have fled their war torn homeland. Two
million flooded across the borders to neighbouring countries and while many stayed there, tens of
thousands paid people smugglers to take them to faraway lands. Facing persecution in Iraq some
40,000 Christian Iraqis have made Sweden their home.

Transcript

Since the war in Iraq started in 2003, millions of Iraqis have fled their wartorn homeland. Two
million flooded across borders to neighbouring countries and while many stayed there, tens of
thousands paid people smugglers to take them to faraway lands.

Facing persecution in Iraq, about 40,000 Christian Iraqis have made Sweden their home.

But Iraqis seeking asylum in Sweden are now being sent back to Iraq and Sweden's reputation as a
humane society is being questioned.

Stephanie Kennedy reports from Sweden.

STEPHANIE KENNEDY, REPORTER: From the capital Stockholm, the royal guards play a largely ceremonial
role, yet Sweden boasts a rich military history dating back to the Vikings age.

Swedish Vikings travelled east in search of trade and riches. As far as Baghdad, the centre of the
Islamic empire. Now, in reversal of fortune, Iraqis are making the long journey west to Sweden.

At this church service in Sodertalje outside Stockholm, Christian Iraqis are free to practise their
faith in peace. In Iraq they endured the threat of violence and religious persecution. They've all
come to Sweden seeking a new life.

NIHDAL SOLAKA, SWEDISH RESIDENT (via translator): We have heard about Sweden when we were in Iraq.
They respect human beings. People mean something important here in Sweden.

STEPHANIE KENNEDY: Nihdal and her husband Farouq Solaka along with their children are now Swedish
residents.

Desperate to escape Iraq, the Bashir family paid thousands of dollars to people smugglers, using a
false passport, teenage son Ehad arrived in Sweden via Jordan, the Czech Republic and Germany.

When Ehad was granted refugee status, his family was entitled to join him. It was the removal of
Saddam Hussein that made life impossible for the Bashir family.

SAHIRA BASHIR, SWEDISH RESIDEN (via translator): We were living but we were dead. We were the
living dead. We don't know at what moment we were subjected to an explosion, a bomb or a booby
trapped car.

STEPHANIE KENNEDY: As Christians, they say their lives became intolerable.

RAAD BASHIR (via translator): If we stayed in Iraq we undoubtedly would have been slaughtered or
had our children kidnapped and been subject to ransoms.

STEPHANIE KENNEDY: For asylum seekers, Sweden provides generous financial support; $30,000 to help
each refugee settle in the country and more than 500 hours of free Swedish lessons.

Since the start of the war in Iraq in 2003, over 6,000 Iraqi refugees have moved to Sodertalje.
Best known in Sweden as the birthplace of tennis legend Bjørn Borg, it's now dubbed 'Little
Baghdad'. But the influx is creating tension in the community.

ANDERS LAGO, SODERTALJE MAYOR: It's a problem to find job opportunities for all of them and it's
impossible to find accommodation for all these people coming.

STEPHANIE KENNEDY: Sodertalje now wants to slam the door shut on any further refugees. The influx
of Iraqis has brought a range of social problems housing, jobs and schools are all in short supply
and the city says, it's simply reached its limit. Of even more concern, some home grown Swedes are
now beginning to resent the new arrivals.

MARC ABRAMSSON, SWEDISH NATIONAL DEMOCRATS (TRANSLATED): We've got a situation where large areas
become like Iraq in Sweden. Where you speak Iraqi language with Iraqi shops, where they don't live
at all in Swedish-type society. We're going to get a Balkanisation, where the country sooner o
later is torn apart.

STEPHANIE KENNEDY: Members of the far right political party, the National Democrats, Mark Abramson
and his partner Ilan Lovegran (?) have been elected to the Sodertalje municipality.

UNKNOWN: They want that type of system that you have in South Africa for 20 years ago. They want a
society only for the ethnic Swedes.

STEPHANIE KENNEDY: These Iraqis might have arrived too late. They're on tenterhooks, awaiting the
outcome of their application for refugee status.

RIADH BAJOT, ASYLUM SEEKER (TRANSLATED): The army threatened me because I was working in a liquor
store. I was kidnapped with the owner of the shop, they blindfolded and handcuffed US.

NASHED PAULS, ASYLUM SEEKER (TRANSLATED): I left Iraq after my mother was murdered in 2005 and the
persecution we suffered.

IMAN MATTI, ASYLUM SEEKER (TRANSLATED): They said, "We will kill you, we will kidnap our children,
we will bomb your car."

STEPHANIE KENNEDY: Last year, the number of Iraqis granted residency dropped dramatically after the
Swedish Migration court ruled that Iraq is no longer a war zone.

TOBIAS BILLSTROM, MINISTER FOR MIGRATION: They have to have valid reasons and if the security
situation is improving in Iraq, that is a reason for a higher degree of rejections.

STEPHANIE KENNEDY: At the end of the day, as the sun sinks low in the Sodertalje sky, so too the
hopes of this trio.

Nashed Paul's original application has already been rejected. Iman Mattie, anxious to be reunited
with her family, and Riadh Bajot are both desperate to see out their days in the relative peace and
tranquillity of Sweden.

Stephanie Kennedy, Lateline.