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Cablegate: Finland: Iraqi Human Smuggling Cases

VZCZCXYZ0013
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHHE #0574 3541132
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 191132Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY HELSINKI
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 4715

UNCLAS HELSINKI 000574

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PREF PBTS SMIG FI
SUBJECT: FINLAND: IRAQI HUMAN SMUGGLING CASES

REF: HELSINKI 00159

1. SUMMARY. Iraqi asylum cases in Finland are on the rise,
following a shift in the Government's refugee policy. As the
Iraqi population rises, Finnish officials encounter instances
of people trying to circumvent refugee processes abroad to
reunite with family and former neighbors now resident in
Finland. Finnish officials in the small city of Oulu have
identified several instances of human smuggling. Officials
worry about an increase in criminality among an idle, mostly
male immigrant population. END SUMMARY.

2. On December 11, the Finnish press reported that three
Iraqis had been arrested for smuggling five Iraqis into the
northern city of Oulu (near the Swedish border). In a
December 15 conversation with PolOff, Border Guard officials
stated that they found no evidence of human trafficking,
noting that all five applied for asylum in Finland after
arrival. According to the officials, the asylum requests
remain with the immigration office. The officials suspect
that the arrested Iraqis may have been involved in other
smuggling incidences occurring between June and September
2008. They described two cases in Oulu involving five aliens
each and another case in nearby Kemi where an ethnic Iraqi
resident in Sweden brought in one Iraqi individual without
official papers.

3. The officials said the Iraqis came to Oulu to join
relatives - mostly from Mosul and Kirkuk - who had previously
gained permission to stay in Finland or were already in the
asylum process. (NOTE: Official statistics support a broad
estimate of the Iraqi population in Oulu, a city of about
130,000, in the low hundreds. END NOTE.) From their
interviews with those smuggled, the officials believe that
the route for those interviewed was Iraq, Turkey, Greece,
Italy, and Sweden, with Finland the intended and final
destination. They also believe that the Iraqis pay more than
$10,000 at the beginning of the route to get out of Iraq,
then 2,000 euros to get through central Europe and another
2,000 euros to get through Sweden.

4. The Officials expressed two major concerns surrounding the
smuggling case. First, as the majority of the asylum seekers
arriving in Oulu are men 20-30 years of age, the officials
are concerned that crime could grow if the asylum-seekers
have nothing to do. (NOTE: The officials noted that a number
of asylum seekers claim to be 18 years but are later found to
be older. Finnish officials say asylum seekers claim to be
minors because the application process is longer, a
deportation decision is difficult to make if parents of a
minor cannot be located, and family reunification rules make
it easier for minors to join parents resident in Finland. END
NOTE.) The officials' second concern is that political cells
or groups from Iraq could regroup in Finland, though they had
no evidence of political ties or related activities among the
asylees.

5. According to the Finnish Migration Service, the number of
Iraqi asylum seekers in Finland has more than doubled since
2006, and Iraqi applications are the only ones increasing.
Iraq represented the third highest group of asylum seekers in
2006, numbering 225 applications. In 2007, it became the
highest at 327 applications and so far in 2008, through
August 30, Iraq again ranks highest as a source country with
464 applications. Only one in four applicants is female.

6. COMMENT. The increase in asylum seekers from Iraqi
Kurdistan is in line with a Government of Finland shift in
focus to Iraqi Kurds via UNHCR referral (REFTEL). Finnish
officials generally express concerns about criminality within
young immigrant populations. The Finnish government does not
track ethnic populations separately as a matter of law,
creating difficulties in tracking statistics related to
certain populations. The limited crime statistics available
do not point to a level of criminality disproportionate to
the Iraqi population. END COMMENT.
BARRETT

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