(AFP) - A family of Armenians being repatriated after their application for asylum in Sweden was rejected got a nasty surprise when they arrived at their destination -- they had been flown to Azerbaijan, a country with which Armenia is at war.
Their plane, chartered by Sweden's immigration authorities, was ordered to fly back after landing at Azerbaijan's capital, Baku, when border guards realised the passengers were of Armenian origin, officials here said.
"Their documents were checked by immigration on the tarmac. Not even the crew were allowed off the plane and then they were ordered back to Sweden," an airport spokesman in Baku told AFP Wednesday.
Armenians are personae non grata in Azerbaijan, a former Soviet republic, since a war between the two neighbours in the early 1990s which has still not been declared over, though there is a
ceasefire. Most Armenians living in Azerbaijan fled years ago because of a wave of mob violence against them. The few that stayed have to conceal their identity or face persecution, say human rights groups.
The family of five had been deported from the Swedish city of Gothenburg after a local court denied them leave to remain, officials said. It appeared Swedish immigration officers had decided to send them to Baku because, according to the old passports they were travelling on, the family were residents of the Soviet republic of Azerbaijan. But they had fled Azerbaijan for the West more than a decade ago, before the collapse of the Soviet Union and the ethnic strife which followed.