New ‘temporary’ law in Sweden

It is a very sad day for Sweden.

Today Sweden passed a ‘temporary’ law restricting who can get stay in Sweden. The law is retroactive and reduces the possibility of obtaining a residence permit in Sweden for asylum seekers. It shall apply from 20 July 2016 and the next three years. One of the changes is that all those who are granted any form of asylum will only be given temporary residence permit. It downgrades people into a new sub-status. A person is deemed to be a refugee used to receive a residence permit for three years.

The deemed “subsidiary protection” (fleeing wars and conflict) now receive a residence permit for 13 months.13 months. In that time they need to get a permanent job or prove they can support themselves (money in the bank). In addition, people in Sweden will not be reunited with relatives, even children. So if a father has gone ahead in a rubber boat to find safety for his family in EU, he cannot bring his child here in a safe manner any longer. The new law creates a subsidiary protection status – and this in itself could be against international law. The law can be said to be retroactive and affects those in Sweden who have not yet received an asylum decision.

This law has real effects on children from today. It is retroactive. There are very good reasons that all the aid organisations, Amnesty, Doctors without borders, Red Cross, Save the Children, and the Swedish Church are against this law, that goes directly against human rights conventions and all child protection conventions.

I can’t understand that it is actually the Sweden of all countries who have been through these disgusting laws that severely goes against the humanism which we have been long fought for and been proud of.

Now it’s gone in the grave and we are no better than all the other countries who hide behind Fortress Europe’s high walls. We’re abandoning people in distress, breaking up families and hoping that the problem will just go away, or in some cases, trying to pay ourselves out of the problem. As long as it’s not in our back yard! It’s crazy and I’m feeling so incredibly sad and powerless right now.

I haven’t really had a chance to understand what this really mean for tens of thousands of families who have been torn apart because of war and conflict and persecution, and who will not be able to be reunited for a very, very, very long time- so long as this “temporary law” exists.

I have a knot in my stomach when I see my friends in front of me, those who are on the run and who are stuck in Greece, and knowing that yet another glimmer of hope has been put out for them. For the people like the 17-year-old Faten and her younger siblings, who so desperately are longing for their Dad. He was compelled to leave his family during the war in order to get to Europe and seek asylum- in the hope of finding a safe place for them. It was their only hope to give the kids a secure future. He slipped through the wall before it closed. Now the family is stuck in two different countries, desperate, and I wonder when they’ll get to see each other again. He hasn’t even got to see his youngest daughter, the day she was born, after he had fled Aleppo. Sweden has just done this to families like this, who may never get to meet again – or not for many, many years.

What if it had been our own family, our children who were torn away from their parents when they needed them the most, when everything else in your life has been torn apart by war, bombs, trauma, and death? How would we make it?

I’m ashamed of Sweden right now. Our government will do anything to keep the right-wing extremists out of power. How sad. Even where there is not outright prejudice, there is so much ignorance about refugees and asylum seekers.- and so much ignorance about the rest of the world. Even that carelessness dehumanises people who are in pain and who are seeking safety.

The myth that immigration is expensive is just that – a myth. Without immigration Sweden would be a much poorer country. Of course immigration has to be carefully planned and considered- but this law- it is neither of those things:

  1. Families will be split. Some groups will not be reunited with their families at all. At least not as long as this law applies.
  2. More fleeing across the Mediterranean. A great risk is that the families who are still in the war in Syria and neighbouring countries will now embark on the perilous journey across the Mediterranean instead of trying to get reunited through a relative. More families and more children, in more boats.
  3. Integration hampered. Temporary residence permits create an enormous insecurity, and security is fundamental to achieving a successful integration. It is pure torture for people fleeing the horrors of war to be told they might be sent back to face war and persecution. This only increases the need for specialised care and decreases the chances of them finding work in such a short time span. Its simply inhumane.
  4. Waste of talent. Employment is now important than the degree of protection. It is extremely problematic that employment will be more significant for a permanent residence than the degree of protection. Its also a complete waste of talent – we’d rather have a doctor washing dishes to keep their permit within the short time frame rather focussing on taking a fast track to begin working as a doctor in Sweden.

– Joanna