Sweden tightens rules on Iraqi asylum seekers

migg.jpgSTOCKHOLM, July 6 (Reuters) – Sweden, which hosts more Iraqi refugees than any other country in Europe, has ruled that Iraqis seeking asylum must show they would be personally at risk in their homeland to avoid being sent back.

The ruling came after Sweden’s migration board issued a statement on Friday, giving its decision on three separate cases.

In the first case, a Christian man from Baghdad was granted asylum on the basis that he could show he was at personal risk while in his home city, the statement said.

“The second man from Baghdad could not point to any individual circumstances that would increase the risk that he is a victim of the violence in Baghdad to a greater extent than others living there,” the statement said. “He therefore does not fulfil the criteria.”

A third asylum-seeker from southern Iraq was also denied asylum on the same basis.

The ruling clarifies the criteria for asylum-seekers in Sweden. Previously, the migration board considered applications on a case-by-case basis, a migration board official said.

A Swedish court also ruled earlier this year that the country does not consider Iraq to be an armed conflict, a status which can influence whether refugees are granted asylum.

Nearly half of all Iraqis that fled to Europe last year came to Sweden, a country known for its generous welfare benefits and more relaxed rules on asylum.

A Swedish migration board official said official figures showed 8,951 Iraqis came to Sweden last year, or 45 percent of the total in Europe.

Christian Iraqis, fearing persecution in their homeland, make up a large part of that total.

Iraqis also constitute the biggest group of asylum-seekers in Sweden, dwarfing the second largest group from Serbia and Montenegro, which numbered 1,760 last year.

But Sweden has grown increasingly worried about the strain that the flood of asylum-seekers is taking on its welfare system.

The migration official said each asylum-seeker was entitled to up to three hearings to determine his or her status.