Take Them Back! Denmark Mulls Making Iraq ‘An Offer It Can’t Refuse’

Take Them Back! Denmark Mulls Making Iraq ‘An Offer It Can’t Refuse’
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AP Photo/ Mikkel Berg Pedesen/POLFOTOEurope12:01 26.02.2018Get short URLTopic: Europe’s Refugee and Migrant Crisis
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Ever since 2011, Baghdad has refused to accept Iraqi nationals whose asylum applications in Denmark have been rejected. Unless the Iraqi government does not change course, Danish aid will be cut, according to a recent proposal.

The right-wing Danish People’s Party (DF) and the Social Democrats (SD) have grown weary of Iraq’s stern refusal to accept back its nationals residing illegally in Denmark. To make Baghdad more complicit, the two parties are proposing cutting Danish aid to Iraq.

“We give Iraq a lot of money and have Danish soldiers stationed there trying to stabilize the country, so it’s certainly not too much to demand that they accept back their own citizens. If they are still reluctant, the minister must make it clear that Denmark will cut its aid,” DF parliamentary group chairman Peter Skaarup told the daily newspaper Berlingske.

The SD, by contrast, stressed the reconstruction aid to Iraq, now that the war on Daesh (ISIS/ISIL) is over.

“It is clearly unsatisfactory that Iraq is reluctant to readmit its own nationals, especially when Denmark supports the country with millions of dollars. Therefore, we need to make demands on the Iraqi government in the context of reconstruction aid,” SD foreign rapporteur Nick Hækkerup told Berlingske.

The expulsion of rejected asylum seekers has been a priority issue for the Danish government, which pledged “stronger deportation efforts” in November 2016.

According to Berlingske, there are three reasons behind Denmark’s insistence. Firstly, as the government itself put it, it “undermines the legitimacy of the asylum system.” Secondly, a stricter approach will deter refugees with questionable reasons for asylum from applying for refugee status in Denmark. Thirdly, it costs an average of DKK 1,334 ($225) per day to house a rejected asylum seeker in one of the designated centers. There are people who have lived in these centers for years.

According to the latest survey conducted by the Danish authorities, 138 Iraqis face deportation after either having their asylum applications refused or committing crimes.

Denmark has previously had a repatriation agreement with Iraq. It was concluded in 2009, but lasted only for two years, before being terminated by Iraq.

READ MORE: Denmark’s Largest Party Grilled for ‘Send Asylum Seekers to Africa’ Plan

Liberal Foreign Minister Michael Aastrup Jensen stressed that the government parties are currently busy investigating methods of ensuring the deportation of foreign nationals, not only to Iraq, but to other countries as well. However, he argued that cutting aid to Iraq may, in fact, be “counterproductive.”

“Without reconstruction, there is nothing for Iraqis to return to, so it will take even longer before we can actually get rid of those rejected,” Aastrup Jensen explained.

Liberal Development Minister Ulla Tørnæs ruled out cutting the part of the humanitarian aid for which she is responsible. According to Tørnæs, the Danish aid is governed by international principles and is aimed at protecting the most vulnerable strata of society.

In the fall of 2017, the Danish government set aside DKK 135 million ($23 million) to aid internally-displaced Iraqis and stabilize areas liberated from Daesh.

Denmark has a vibrant Iraqi diaspora of 30,000.

READ MORE: ‘Don’t Want Denmark to Become Like Middle East’: MP Roasts Swedish Politics

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