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More than 3,100 Iraqis in Finland have withdrawn their asylum applications since January 2015, but most paid their own way back or caught flights organized by the European Union from other countries,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

  • How Yukoners reacted when most of their territory went without power

    Canada News CBC News
    Most of Yukon went without power for a few hours Saturday after a hydro unit in Whitehorse went offline. For nearly three hours, power was out in communities across the territory, with temperatures dropping to nearly -30 C in some of the affected areas. Source
  • Conservative leadership hopefuls draw crowd of 600 to Langley, B.C., debate

    Canada News CBC News
    Opposition to safe injection sites, ideas for a two-tiered health care system and Islamophobia, along with jobs and the economy, were alll topics touched on by 12 of 14 of the federal Conservative leadership candidates in the first of two back-to-back B.C. Source
  • You're fired! Trump administration official axed after criticizing The Donald [Video]

    World News Toronto Sun
    WASHINGTON — A senior Trump administration official was fired following criticism in a private speech of President Donald Trump’s policies and his inner circle of advisers. Craig Deare, whom Trump appointed a month ago to head the National Security Council’s Western Hemisphere division, was on Friday escorted out of the Executive Office Building, where he worked in Washington. Source
  • Trash, mud from construction enrages new Edmonton neighbourhood

    Canada News CTV News
    Home construction is a dirty business. Heavy equipment tracks mud all over the place, builders pile excess material in unsightly heaps before carting it away in dumpsters, and even the most mindful journeyman can lose a coffee cup or fast food wrapper in the wind. Source
  • 'Harsh conditions' help force shutdown of Sable Island wind project

    Canada News CBC News
    The harsh conditions and extreme isolation of Sable Island has forced Ottawa to abandon a wind project on the iconic crescent-shaped sandbar — more than 15 years after it launched the initiative. Parks Canada said wind turbines don't meet the needs of the wind-swept Nova Scotia island, famous for the wild horses that have roamed there since the 18th century. Source
  • More record-breaking warmth ahead for Ontario before new freeze

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- Environment Canada says more spring-like weather that smashed temperature records in Ontario is in store for the rest of the weekend. Trudy Kidd, a meteorologist with the weather agency, says Toronto saw a new record high for Feb. Source
  • France warns Russia not to meddle in election

    World News CTV News
    PARIS - France's foreign minister is denouncing possible Russian meddling in the French presidential campaign as "unacceptable." Jean-Marc Ayrault, in an interview published Sunday in newspaper Journal du Dimanche, said Russia appears to be targeting centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron, while favouring more pro-Russia candidates such as conservative Francois Fillon and nationalist Marine Le Pen. Source
  • Texas hunters charged after claiming immigrants shot them

    World News CTV News
    PRESIDIO, Texas -- Two hunters accused in a shooting on a Texas ranch near the Mexican border had told authorities they were attacked by immigrants who had entered the U.S. illegally. Presidio County Sheriff Danny Dominguez told Odesa television KOSA that a grand jury indicted Michael Bryant and Walker Daugherty on charges of using deadly conduct by discharging firearms in the direction of others. Source
  • U.S. slams Russia for recognizing Ukrainian rebel documents

    World News CTV News
    MOSCOW -- The United States says it is disturbed by Russia's decision to recognize passports and other documents issued by rebel authorities in eastern Ukraine. The recognition, in an order signed by President Vladimir Putin that was announced Saturday, "is alarming and contradicts the agreed-upon goals of the Minsk Agreement," the U.S. Source
  • Federal Ottawa-Vanier byelection happening April 3

    Canada News CBC News
    Ottawa-Vanier will elect a replacement for Mauril Bélanger on April 3, according to the Prime Minister's Office. Bélanger represented the urban riding for the Liberals from February 1995 until August 2016, when he died less than a year after announcing he had been diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease. Source