This is after the Danish government negotiated an agreement with the Iraqi government, regarding the return of 283 “illegal” asylum seekers, despite objections from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
The Iraqis are hoping to follow the example of 70 Lebanese-Palestinians who in 1992 sought asylum in Blågårds Kirke. They were finally granted asylum, after special legislation was passed (The Palestinians Law).
Here is a letter written by a spokesperson inside:
We are a group of Iraqi asylum seekers in Denmark. Denmark wants to deport us following a repatriation-agreement that the Iraqi Foreign Minister has signed.
We are protesting against the signed agreement between Danish and Iraqi foreign ministers.
We know that the situation in Iraq is improving slowly, however there is still not a stabile nor a safe situation and we fear that conflicts can explode whenever.
There is wide political disagreement in Iraq, and the election is approaching, taking place in a few months. The Iraqi government has not guaranteed a secure life, houses or jobs for any of us.
The UN have declared that it is regarded unsafe for us to return to Iraq.
A few months ago the newly elected president of the US, Barack Obama, criticized the Danish government for having done sadly little for the victims of the war in Iraq, as he also encouraged them to improve their treatment of us. We see this in high contract to our current situation.
We have sought shelter in Brorsons Kirke, a church in Copenhagen, Denmark, as churches have a history of sheltering and helping people in need.
We feel anxious about our future in Iraq, many of us regard any such future non-existent. We fear for our life and wish nothing but to be allowed to stay in Denmark, a country in which many of us have lived the majority of our lives.
We would be very thankful if you would cover the news and help us put pressure on the danish government.
Rejected Iraqi Asylum Seekers in Brorsons Kirke,
The Danish media has given a mixed reaction to the church asylum but much local support is shown for the action as people donate food and blankets and show solidarity for those inside the church.
The mainstream news and government however have given a much different reaction, some news states that the Iraqi’s have ‘occupied’ the church, therefore misrepresenting the agenda at hand. Birthe Rønn, the Danish minister of refugee, immigration and integration affairs was interviewed for a Danish newspaper and is quoted asking why the asylum seekers have chosen a church instead of a mosque to seek sanctuary in, when the Muslim asylum seekers belong to a people that are known for persecuting Christians.
The asylum system in Denmark is made so that failed asylum seekers who are not willing to return to their country of origin, must remain in an asylum centre where they must sign with the police every week or more. The physical conditions in these camp are not too bad. The residents are free to come and go. But none are allowed to work and the centres are placed far from the city centres, therefore keeping people isolated from society.
A report by European MPs who visited one centre concluded the psychological effects of long periods in these conditions - sometimes more than 10 years - can be devastating, especially for children and young people. This system was not set up for prolonged use instead it is meant for people to stay for just a few years at the most. Some children in the camp have been born in Denmark and speak Danish, but they are in effect excluded from society.
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