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5th Mar 2024

EU countries pledge to host 10,000 Iraqi refugees

  • Iraqi children and women are the most vulnerable refugees to be hosted by the EU countries. (Photo: Wikipedia)

EU countries are to host "on a voluntary basis" up to 10,000 Iraqi refugees currently living in camps in Syria and Jordan, the bloc's interior ministers have decided at a Brussels meeting on Thursday (28 November).

The move comes after the United Nations refugee agency, the UNCHR, called upon Europe to take up to 80,000 Iraqis in the next three years, explained Brice Hortefeux, French minister for immigration, who chaired the meeting.

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He was particularly happy to have agreed on a specific figure that would be accepted, despite protests from countries such as Malta, Cyprus and Greece who have already hosted significant a number of refugees in proportion to their population.

The biggest share – 2,500 refugees - would be welcomed into Germany, interior minister Wolfgang Schauble announced after the meeting. France has already hosted 488 Iraqis, while another 981 applications will be processed in the coming weeks, Mr Hortefeux said.

At the meeting, ministers debated a report from a group of EU experts who visited refugee camps in Syria and Jordan in early November and noted that the situation was "deteriorating", EU justice commissioner Jacques Barrot told a press conference.

An estimated 1.5 million Iraqis have fled their country to live in camps in Syria and Jordan.

The report concluded that most refugees would ultimately return home, but that a significant minority, especially women and children, were in urgent need of re-settlement. Others were facing medical problems or belonged to minorities particularly targeted in Iraq.

At the same time, Mr Hortefeux noted that Iraqi officials called upon Europeans not to encourage emigration.

"On the contrary, our objective is to get people to come back to Iraq. But the UNCHR set an objective of 80,000 refugees for the next three years to be taken up by Europe," the French minister added.

The United States said Tuesday that it expects to meet the "tall order" of admitting a total of 12,000 Iraqi refugees by the end of this fiscal year. In the last fiscal year, just 3,040 were admitted.

Yet the country who welcomed most Iraqi refugees so far has been Sweden. According to official figures, 8,951 Iraqis came to Sweden in 2007. Sweden's appeal to Iraqis lies in its relative openness to refugees and in its established community of more than 82,000, who came through the last 30 years.

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