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Iraqi Refugees Find Safe Havens, Uncertain Futures in Sweden

Sweden has been a refuge for thousands of Iraqis displaced by the war. NewsHour special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro reports on how the country has handled the influx of refugees and what life is like for Iraqis in a new land.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    Finally tonight, Iraq's faraway refugees. There have been reports of thousands of Iraqis returning to their homeland from neighboring Syria, but some are much further from home. Special Correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro has that story.

  • FRED DE SAM LAZARO, NewsHour Correspondent:

    Sweden was not part of the coalition that went into Iraq, yet this Nordic nation has taken in more refugees from there than any other country outside the Middle East.

    At Friday prayer services in the city of Malmo are refugees from some of the world's most violent conflicts: Bosnia, Somalia, Afghanistan, and, most numerous nowadays, Iraq.

  • TEACHER (through translator):

    Our topic today is adapting to Swedish life.

  • FRED DE SAM LAZARO:

    They are people like Haider Kassam al Tamimi. He left his wife and two small children in Baghdad after his life was threatened.

    HAIDER KASSAM AL TAMIMI, Iraqi Refugee and Auto Mechanic (through translator): I was working for a government ministry in the electricity department. A private American company came in to work with the ministry, and the Mujahideen were against the Americans. They sent me a threatening letter because I did not quit my job.

  • FRED DE SAM LAZARO:

    Sweden took in some 9,000 Iraqi refugees in 2006. The U.S. admitted 202 Iraqis in the same period. Migration Minister Tobias Billstroem.

  • TOBIAS BILLSTROEM, Swedish Migration Minister:

    If the U.S. had taken in as many refugees as Sweden has done so far per year, it would have been approximately 500,000 that the U.S. would have accepted so far, if you compare the amount of the populations.

  • FRED DE SAM LAZARO:

    Proportionally?

  • TOBIAS BILLSTROEM:

    Yes.

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