Ali, a father of three children in his forties, is one of the returnees, and considers himself lucky to still be alive. After an unsuccessful tour to Finland courtesy of human traffickers in Turkey, Ali withdrew his application and returned to his home country. By his own admission, he was abducted and tortured for several months.
The security situation in Iraq, which has in effect been a single battleground ever since the US-led 2003 Operation Iraqi Freedom, has been an important issue in Finland in recent months. In May, the Finnish Immigration Board updated its safety review on Iraq and announced that the security situation in the country has improved, which was subsequently questioned by many experts.Iraq Body Count puts the corresponding figure at 2,300.
The number of civilian victims reached a peak in 2006-2008 and increased again in 2014. Since then, the death toll is estimated to have fallen somewhat, but Iraq Body Count, nevertheless reported over 14,000 civilians dead this year alone.
So far, about 1,500 Iraqi asylum-seekers are estimated to have returned home. Incidentally, Iraqis make up the majority of last year's "crop" of refugees in Finland. In the wake of last year's migrant crisis, Finland has kept tightening asylum rules for Iraqi citizens, insisting that some areas of Iraq were perfectly safe.
In 2014, nearly 13,000 people of Iraqi origin lived in Finland, according to Statistics Finland. In 2015, 15,400 Iraqi asylum-seekers arrived in the country.
As of October 2016, 6,300 Iraqis received a negative asylum decision in Finland. According to Päivi Nerg, permanent secretary at the Interior Ministry, Finland spares no effort to stimulate "as many Iraqis as possible" to voluntarily return home.