Air Finland provides repatriation flights from Europe to Baghdad
UN opposes return of Iraqi asylum-seekers
According to information received by Helsingin Sanomat, the Finnish airline Air Finland has again transported Iraqi asylum-seekers from Europe to Baghdad.
A week ago - June 9th - a chartered plane left Great Britain and made a stopover in Halmstad in Sweden, continuing from there to Baghdad.
Air Finland is not willing to comment on the matter.
”We fly all kinds of flights for authorities of different countries”, noted Sales Director Jukka Mustila of Air Finland on Tuesday evening. ”A number of this type of flights have also been made”, he adds.
”As subcontractors we cannot make any statements concerning our flights”, Mustila said.
In January, Air Finland confirmed to the Finnish News Agency (STT) that its aircraft had been used to transport Iraqi asylum applicants from Oslo to Baghdad. The plane had been chartered by the Swedish and Norwegian authorities.
Air Finland’s Boeing 757 aircraft with more than 200 seats was used for last week’s flight.
According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the flight was arranged by Sweden, Norway, Great Britain, and the Netherlands. The Refugee Agency said that the number of deportees was not disclosed, but according to the Swedish press, the aircraft carried a total of 56 Iraqi deportees.
According to information gathered by Helsingin Sanomat, another similar deportation flight for Iraqi asylum-seekers has been booked for next week.
The UN Refugee Agency and Amnesty International are both opposing such forced repatriations to Baghdad.
Complying with the stance expressed by the UNHCR, Finland has itself refrained from deporting asylum-seekers to Iraq for the time being.
In the view of Amnesty International, asylum applicants originating from the five most dangerous governorates or provices of Iraq should be granted refugee status or at least a residence permit because of the need for international protection, as it is not safe to return to these regions. One of the most dangerous governorates is Baghdad.
Nevertheless, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and Great Britain all deported asylum-seekers to these provinces last year.
The Finnish airline Air Finland Ltd has its head office in the Helsinki-Vantaa Airport complex.
More than half of the airline is owned by Berling Capital Ltd., belonging to CEO Esa Karppinen and his family, while 45 per cent of the airline is owned by its executive management.
In 2009, Air Finland posted a sales profit of more than EUR 2 million.
In the current year, the airline has started the sales of package tours to a number of destinations, including Turkey.
The airline’s package tours use the same planes as those used for the repatriation of asylum-seekers.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Representatives of Lutheran Church criticise nighttime deportation of Kurdish family (23.12.2009)
Fewer Iraqis seek asylum in Finland (18.1.2007)
Finland to start repatriating people to Afghanistan and possibly Iraq (4.1.2007)
Cutting down on number of quota refugees may increase human trafficking (24.2.2010)
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR)
UNHCR cautions against European deportations to Iraq (8.6.2010)