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Page last updated at 14:32 GMT, Wednesday, 2 September 2009 15:32 UK

Denmark deports group of Iraqis

Jet at Odense airport, 2 Sep 09
The Iraqis were put onto this charter jet at Odense airport

Denmark has deported 22 Iraqis after rejecting their asylum requests.

A plane carrying the Iraqis - 21 men and one woman - left Odense airport early on Wednesday. The plane is reported to be heading for Baghdad.

Most of the Iraqis had sought refuge at Brorson's Church in Copenhagen in May, but they were evicted by police amid angry protests in August.

They left "without incidents", an airport official said. They had been held at a detention centre.

Denmark's Immigration Minister Birthe Roenn Hornbech defended the deportation, saying the Iraqis were "not personally persecuted".

A Danish support group, Kirkeasyl, says it is trying to get asylum for 125 Iraqis who remain in Denmark.

A Danish activist supporting the Iraqis, Rosa Lund, said it was "totally inhuman to send people home to an uncertain future", the Associated Press reported.

Clashes broke out between protesters and police outside Brorson's Church last month during the eviction of the asylum seekers.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and Amnesty International have criticised the Danish government's policy of sending the Iraqi refugees home. They argue that the situation is still too unstable in several regions.

Katrine Jensen, a spokesperson for Kirkeasyl, said the deportation was "horrible - some of the Iraqis' asylum cases had been reopened".

She told the BBC it was "outrageous that the asylum seekers did not have a lawyer with them" during a meeting with Iraqi officials last week.

The Iraqi delegation visited Denmark to try to identify the asylum seekers, she said, describing the visit as "secretive".

The wives and children of the deported Iraqis "are shocked and afraid that the men will get killed", she added.



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