Copenhagen: Iraqis seek shelter in church

Copenhagen: Iraqis seek shelter in church


Due to lack of space, the Iraqis moved to a different church, Brorsons Kirke, in the Nørrebro district of Copenhagen.

Source: DR (Danish)


A group of Iraqis are now seeking shelter in the Church of Our Lady in Copenhagen (the National Cathedral of Denmark) in order to prevent their forced deportation home. At 4PM yesterday there were about ten Iraqis, but more joined during the afternoon. The family and children of 15 of them were expected to join them today.

About twenty youth who support the Iraqis brought in a refrigerator with food. The men are sleeping on the floor on mattresses. Concerned Danes have shown up with food, cloths and blankets. There are two small toilets and no bath.

According to Taleb Ansari, the group's spokesperson, they can manage and the mood is OK. They feel secure in the church and that is most important, but there are also many who are nervous.

The Iraqis want to get work permits and stay in Denmark. The protest is organized by a group named Kirkeasyl (church asylum).

Ansari says that if he can't live here, he's ready to die here.

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)

The men in the Church of Our Lady come from the Sandholm and Avnstrup asylum centers, and belong to a group of 283 Iraqis who will be deported over the upcoming months, as part of an agreement between Denmark and Iraq.

Ramzy Tajran says that the police took his work permit, and he's been living for ten years in Sandholm. "What will I do in Iraq? I was born in 1969 and in 1981 my family fled to Iran, and in 1992 we came to Denmark. My only remaining family member in Iraq - my older brother - was taken hostage and killed," he says.

Ali Rasool (32) says he has no family in Iraq and his son is in Denmark. He's being forced to leave the country and his son (4), which he's had with his Icelandic ex-girlfriend.

His friend Taleb (48) says that they've been sold by Denmark to Iraq for 50 million Kroner. "Here in the church we're safe. Here the police won't come and send us out to the airport."

Both men are afraid of what's waiting for them in Iraq. Ali Rasool is suffering from a kidney disease and his afraid he won't get the right treatment in Iraq.

"We've been persecuted in Iraq and now we're also persecuted in Denmark. this is our last opportunity for protection," says spokesperson Anne.

The Church council head, Ole Ehlers, says that the Iraqis are unwanted in the church and that he's asked them to leave. He is annoyed that the church is being used for political goals. "In principle we will ask them to go, but we will not use force to get them out."

"We have a lot of understanding for the Iraqis' unfortunate situation and we hope that they have understanding for the church's continued operation. But we can't solve their political situation,' says parish priest Jesper Stange.

Peter Skaarup of the Danish People's Party called upon Justice Minister Brian Mikkelsen to kick the Iraqis out of the church. Skaarup says this should not become a reenactment of the Blågårds Kirke incident, when a big group of state-less Palestinians received residence permits after a month long occupation of the church.

The Iraqis intend to stay in the church. Wissam Sahed Jaasar (19) says that he's spent 8 years in an asylum center and he can also spend 8 years in a church.

Sources: DR, Politiken, Ekstrabladet 1, 2 (Danish). See also: Photos from TV2

No comments: