50+ Iraqis escorted back to Erbil in an unprecedented Franco-German initiative

50+ Iraqis escorted back to Erbil in an unprecedented Franco-German initiative

Shafaq News/ 51 Iraqi migrants who lived in France and Germany were escorted back today, Thursday, at their request to Erbil, the capital of Kurdistan region, on the occasion of the “first” European joint operation of its kind.

These Iraqi nationals, mainly Kurds, have benefited in France as in Germany from the voluntary return assistance program, which consists for a foreigner to return to his country for a sum of money.

"This Franco-German operation is a first and an example of good cooperation between European countries on migration issues", said Didier Leschi, head of the French Office for Immigration and Integration (OFII), to AFP, stressing that the Paris-Munich-Erbil flight had been financed by Frontex, the European Union's external border surveillance agency.

Wednesday afternoon, 15 Iraqis who had been refused their asylum application and who lived in the north of France boarded this flight, after having undergone a Covid-19 test which turned out negative, against a sum of 1,800 euros each, to which will be added an amount of 3,000 euros once there as "integration assistance", explains Didier Leschi.

In Munich, 36 of their compatriots in turn boarded this plane in which they were escorted by French and German officials.

They must have been 75 (90 in total with the Iraqis of France) but several people infected with the coronavirus were not able to board. The group first landed in Baghdad, the Iraqi capital, on Thursday before continuing their flight to Erbil.

The initiative for this joint operation, "which calls for others" according to the director of OFII, was taken by Berlin, he explains.

In France, "there is a demand" for voluntary returns "accelerated by the Covid-19 crisis", which has added tension, particularly on the job market, assures Didier Leschi.

However, the traffic difficulties and the drop in flights since the start of the health crisis have especially slowed down the possibility of making these returns, “There are even requests for returns that I cannot meet, mainly from nationals. Algerians and Moroccans, because their countries do not want to take them back, precisely because of the Covid-19", he adds.

In 2019, France carried out some 8,500 voluntary returns, against 2,300 since early 2020 with this formula acclaimed by the government because it is much less expensive than forced removal.

According to a 2018 parliamentary report, the "forced" departure costs on average 14,000 euros, against 2,500 to 4,000 euros for the "assisted" return.

The Paris-Munich-Erbil flight was funded by Frontex, the European Union's external border surveillance agency 







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