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Cablegate: At Eu, Sweden Pushes Iraqi Refugees Over

VZCZCXRO7585
PP RUEHAG RUEHDF RUEHIK RUEHLZ RUEHROV
DE RUEHSM #0532 2101117
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 281117Z JUL 08 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY STOCKHOLM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3630
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHGB/AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD PRIORITY 0096
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS PRIORITY

UNCLAS STOCKHOLM 000532

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV PTER EU IZ SW
SUBJECT: AT EU, SWEDEN PUSHES IRAQI REFUGEES OVER
REPATRIATION

1. (U) On June 24, the local media ran an op-ed piece by
Migration Minister Tobias Billstrom calling on other EU
countries to take in more Iraqi refugees. That same day at
the EU Ministerial meeting, the EU did not address the issue
to take in more Iraqi refugees. According to press reports,
this was because Iraqi PM Maliki requested the EU not to take
further initiatives that would counter Iraqi repatriation.

2. (U) Billstrom's political specialist, Kristina Lindahl,
told emboff that the op-ed was written and published based on
a draft EU text, which changed somewhat at the Ministerial.
She said Sweden supports the decision to organize a
repatriation settlement program, but would have preferred
additional wording urging EU members to take in Iraqi
refugees. A EU volunteer study trip to Iraq is being planned
in conjunction with UNHCR prior to the start of the EU's
repatriation program scheduled for 2009. Sweden intends to
participate.

3. (U) Comment: It seems that Sweden underestimated its
ability to influence other EU members to agree to accept more
Iraqi refugees. Sweden has taken in almost 60 percent of all
Iraqi refugees to the EU and is feeling the heat domestically
as its social welfare program is being overtaxed. Sweden is
a top EU destination country for asylum-seeking Iraqis, both
legal refugees and illegal immigrants. Sweden's generous
policies allow asylum seekers to stay and receive government
assistance while awaiting a decision--a process that often
lasts more than two years. Swedish authorities have had
difficulty repatriating the 10-15 percent of Iraqis denied
asylum for reasons including absconsion, lack of transit
visas through Jordan, and domestic opposition over returning
asylum-seekers to a "war-torn" country.
SILVERMAN

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