Emotional scenes unfold as dozens of Iraqi migrants return home from Europe

BAGHDAD -- Emotional scenes unfolded at the Baghdad International Airport on Thursday as dozens of Iraqis who had sought refuge in Europe returned home.

See Full Article

More than a hundred Iraqis, mostly young men, landed in Baghdad on a flight from Finland. Some kneeled, kissing the ground. Many were holding the so-called "yellow passport," travel documents issued by Iraqi embassies in Europe and elsewhere to those wishing to return home.

"It's too difficult to live there," said one of the women, Um Ealia, who declined to be identified by her full name fearing for her own security. "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.

Over the past 12 months thousands of Iraqis are estimated to have returned home from Europe, citing lack of economic opportunity due to language barriers, cold weather and cultural differences as the reasons for going back after often harrowing journeys by sea and land that can take weeks.

The Geneva-based International Organization 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 joined the tide of refugees and migrants making the thousands of miles long journey to Europe in an effort to escape war and poverty across Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, according to figures from the IOM.

"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 organized by the Helsinki Police Department, which has organized flights for returning migrants for more than a decade and said they are ready to continue similar chartered flights between the two countries to meet a growing number of returning Iraqis, according to Detective Superintendent Hannu Pietila.

More than 3,100 Iraqis in Finland have withdrawn their asylum applications since January 2015, but most paid their own way back or caught flights organized by the European Union from other countries, Immigration officials in Finland said Thursday.

Last year, nearly 32,500 asylum-seekers arrived in Finland, a near tenfold increase over 2014. Some 20,500 were from Iraq.

"Thank God we came back home from Finland," said Amir Abas 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.

Associated Press Writer Matti Huuhtanen in Helsinki, Finland, contributed to this report.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Steve Bannon talks 'economic war' with China, calls white nationalists 'losers'

    World News CBC News
    The U.S. is in an economic war with China, U.S President Donald Trump's chief political strategist has said, warning Washington is losing the fight but is about to hit China hard over unfair trade practices. "We're at economic war with China," Steve Bannon told U.S. Source
  • One million South Sudan refugees now in Uganda, UN says

    World News CTV News
    KAMPALA, Uganda - The number of South Sudanese refugees sheltering in Uganda has reached 1 million, the United Nations said Thursday, a grim milestone for what has become the world's fastest-growing refugee crisis. Ugandan officials say they are overwhelmed by the flow of people fleeing South Sudan's civil war and the UN refugee agency urges the international community to donate more for humanitarian assistance. Source
  • Conservative leader's free speech pledge wouldn't apply in U of T nationalist rally case

    Canada News CBC News
    A pledge by Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer to yank federal funding from universities that fail to uphold free speech wouldn't apply to a decision by the University of Toronto to ban a nationalist rally from campus, his spokesman said Wednesday. Source
  • Fugitive heir's trail exposes Red Bull co-owners' offshore deals

    World News CTV News
    The Bangkok billionaire family that co-founded Red Bull, the world's leading energy drink, uses offshore companies to cloak purchases of jets and luxury properties, including the posh London home where the clan's fugitive son was last seen. Source
  • Hong Kong democracy activist braces for possible prison sentence

    World News CTV News
    HONG KONG - Young Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong and two other student leaders of huge pro-democracy protests in 2014 braced for a court decision Thursday that could send them to prison. The three-judge panel is due to issue its ruling on a prosecution request for stiffer sentences following a lower court decision that let them avoid prison. Source
  • 'Our great love story': Couple talks arranged marriage

    World News CTV News
    ST. PAUL, Minn. -- David and Elizabeth Weinlick’s life together began like a reality TV show, blossomed into two decades out of a romance novel, and now seems destined to end in tragedy. David Weinlick and Elizabeth Runze were strangers when they said "I do" in front of thousands of shoppers and in the national spotlight at Minnesota’s Mall of America in June 1998. Source
  • Raspberry mousse cakes sold in multiple provinces recalled by CFIA for norovirus

    Canada News CBC News
    The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is recalling a number of raspberry mousse cakes after it was discovered the desserts contained norovirus. The agency issued an expanded recallon Wednesday, specifying the products have been distributed in B.C. Source
  • South Korea looks to jumpstart diplomacy in North Korea standoff

    World News CTV News
    SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of - In an effort to jumpstart diplomacy, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Thursday he would consider sending a special envoy to North Korea for talks if the North stops its missile and nuclear tests. Source
  • Driver of Texas trailer indicted for 10 passengers’ deaths

    World News Toronto Sun
    SAN ANTONIO — The driver of a tractor-trailer packed with people illegally entering the United States in an alleged human smuggling operation was indicted Wednesday on charges related to the deaths of 10 people inside. James Matthew Bradley Jr. Source
  • 'They tried to kill my child to shut her up'; Woman hit, killed by car at Virginia rally mourned [Photos]

    World News Toronto Sun
    CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Mourners will gather in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Wednesday to honour the woman who was killed when a car rammed into a crowd of people protesting a white nationalist rally that descended into violence last weekend. Source