07:17 GMT +324 October 2019
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    Refugees walk through the pouring rain towards a reception center in Finland

    East of Sweden: Many Refugees Convinced There's No Place Like Home

    © AFP 2019 / LEHTIKUVA / Jussi Nukari
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    An increasing number of refugees from Afghanistan and other countries who had previously sought asylum in Sweden and Finland are now pledging to return home. In less than three months, 294 Afghanis have withdrawn their asylum applications, according to Swedish authorities.

    The number of returnees among asylum-seekers who had sought refuge in Sweden is reported to have more than doubled since last year, writes Svenska Dagbladet.

    "We get around 20 people a day. Some days there are even up to 30 people who seek valid identity documents in order to return back to Afghanistan," says Hamid Hami of the Afghani embassy in Stockholm.

    According to figures from the Swedish Migration Board, a total of has 294 people from Afghanistan have withdrawn their asylum application so far this year; 48 of them are unaccompanied refugee children. During the whole of 2015, only 117 refugees withdrew their applications.

    The homesick asylum-seekers include 18-year-old Azizullah Ahmadi, who came to Sweden six months ago but now is among other Afghans who want to return to their families in Afghanistan.

    The Swedish Migration Board believes that the reason why Ahmadi and his fellow Afghans hope to return to Afghanistan is that their rosy expectations of a better life in Europe have been dispelled by the harshness of reality. Once they arrived in Sweden, they experienced long queues and overcrowded temporary accommodations, with no guarantee of being allowed to stay whatsoever.

    Azizullah Ahmadi shares this contention, and adds that the stark contrast between Swedish culture and Afghan society is too great.

    "It was easier in Afghanistan. I do not feel at home here in Sweden," said Azizullah Ahmadi in an interview with Swedish Radio.

    Mohammad Anwari, who is also planning to return to Afghanistan after five months in Sweden, says that in hindsight it was not worth it.

    "The expectations I had, the dangers I experienced on my way here and the money I spent, it was ultimately not worth it," Anwari said.

    According to data from the Swedish Radio, Sweden experienced a sharp drop in refugee numbers after the country introducing border controls in November 2015 and tightened asylum rules at the end of the year. Afghani refugees often lack valid identity documents, which makes them particularly vulnerable to the new immigration regulations. The drop affected, above all, unaccompanied refugee children, latest reports show.

    Likewise, thousands of predominantly Iraqi refugees who arrived in Finland last year have decided to cancel their asylum applications and return home voluntarily, citing family issues and disappointment with life in the frosty Nordic country.

    As of February 2016, about 4,100 refugees have canceled their applications for asylum, saying they don't want to stay in the sparsely-populated country in northern Europe because it's too cold and boring, the Swedish newspaper Expressen wrote.

    Last year, Finland and Sweden took in over 32,000 and 163,000 refugees, respectively.

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    Middle East, refugee crisis, immigration policy, refugees, Afghanistan, Sweden
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