Thousands of Iraqis who arrived in Finland last year have decided to cancel their asylum applications and return home, with some saying they dislike the frosty weather and find the locals unfriendly.
More than 4,100 applications for asylum have been cancelled, officials say, with Finland chartering flights to take the refugees back to Baghdad from next week.
Though the majority say they yearn to be reunited with their families, others are simply disillusioned with the Nordic way of life, according to a local travel agent in Helsinki.
Muhiadin Hassan, who is selling up to twenty tickets to Baghdad each day, told Reuters: “Some say they don’t like the food here, it’s too cold or they don’t feel welcome in Finland. There are many reasons.”
Finland’s intake of asylum seekers rose nearly tenfold last year, after applications increased from 3,600 in 2014 to 32,500 in 2015.
Finland has little experience of mass immigration
Nearly 80 per cent of the returnees are Iraqis, while just 22 of the 877 Syrians who have sought asylum in Finland have asked to return home.
Tobias van Treeckk, a program officer for the International Organisation for Migration, said Finnish bureaucracy had given some Iraqis second thoughts about staying.
“Some say the conditions in Finland and the lengthy asylum process did not meet their expectations, or what they had been told by the people they paid for their travel,” he said.