Today, in March 2022, Sweden is planning to receive maybe 200,000 refugees from Ukraine. We hope they will get a better welcoming than the many thousands of refugees from 2015 who are living in limbo i Sweden.
Update June 2022: Around 40 % of Afghan refugees, seeking new trial or new asylum, are rejected residence permit. The motivation might be “you can adjust to the local customs and habits of your home country” – which for a woman means wear burka, stay at home and accept forced marriages. For a Christian or an atheist, it means hide your (dis)belief, go to the mosque, respect the fast. For a lgbtq-person, it means hide your sexual orientation, marry and get children. In a debate article, Mr. Mikael Ribbenvik, the Director General of the Migration Agency, claims that the rule of law at the Migration Agency is good, although the opposite fact is well documented.
There are many differences compared to 2015, when we received 165,000 refugees from the Middle East and Africa. The most obvious difference is that now all Sweden, all political fractions, all citizens, are supporting the new refugees. We can hear voices that the Ukraine refugees come from a “civilized” country, they are Christian, their culture is similar to ours. That’s why they should be prioritized, it is argued.
The problem is that the signals from the Government and the Migration agency supports this point of view, that different refugees should be treated differently. The Ukranians do not need to apply for asylum. They will directly get registered, get their residence cards, work if they find a job – while the Afghan refugees from 2015 now either get their new applications rejected or their investigations postponed, with little or no economic support, not allowed to work.
This is similar to how differently the refugees from 2015 were treated. They refugees from Syria all got asylum and work permit, and could immediately get integrated in the society, while the Afghans had to wait 1-2 years for their first interview, and 2-5 years until their asylum process ended.
Of the 41,000 refugees of Afghan origin in 2015, 27,000 were rejected asylum by the Migration board. Among these were 2,200 unaccompanied minors (UAM) still under 18, 12,600 UAM:s who had either completed or been revalued at the age of 18 years, and 4,200 children with parents. The asylum processes were characterized by legal uncertainty (see below).
Hundreds of families and thousands of the young UAM have continued their flight to Germany, France and other countries, where most of them have got residence permit. Around 7,000 paperless Afghans of different ages are still in Sweden. Many of them have grown up outside Afghanistan – in Iran, Pakistan, or for the youngest children, in Sweden. They have no connection to Afghanistan.
In November 2021, the Migration agency gave the refugees a “breathing space” (an expression used of the then Prime minister Stefan Löfven, when the hard so called “temporary law” was presented November 25, 2015), referring to the EASO report of November 11. According to EASO, most of the Afghan refugees would belong to the exposed groups in Taliban’s Afghanistan and not possible to deport. This gave new hope to Afghans in Sweden, and many sent in new appeals.
That was a vain hope. The Migration agency has hardly made any decisions. The few decisions made are absurd refusals: A woman, who has been living in Sweden for six years, can adjust to the culture and customs of the Taliban. A Christian, who now has been active in church for another three years, is still not “genuine” and can live as a Muslim. An LGBTI-person, living in a relationship in Sweden, can easily hide his sexual orientation.
The arrival of the Ukrainian refugees is a catastrophe for the Afghan refugees. Since 2015, too small resources combined with the new law, giving only temporary residence, the processing time at the Migration agency is extremely long, also for rather simple cases.
Now the Migration agency has put a stop to all investigations of Afghans as they are fully occupied with receiving thousands of new refugees every day. The families, with under age children, will continue to live below subsistence minimum, as the parents are not allowed to work. The mental illness of the parents, because of the insecure situation, will affect the children.
The big group of Afghan young men, who have spent their adolescence and adult life in Sweden, don’t know if they will ever come out of the shadows. They are not allowed to work, they live on charity from the civil society – as long as they manage to keep away from drugs and crimes. So far, only one suicide in this group is reported. However, we can see the same signals in the facebook group Stop deportations to Afghanistan! as we saw in 2017 – a year where the suicide frequency among refugees and asylum seekers 17-19 years was ten times higher than in the same age group, born in Sweden.
The asylum process since 2015
The UAM:s 2015 were taken care of by civilians, before and after they got their rejection. This is the reason why we know very much about how they were handled by the Migration agency and the courts. The material is collected in the book “The unnecessary refugee crisis – rule of law, the civil society and the refugees 2015 -2021” (“Den onödiga flyktingkrisen“). To read about the legal uncertainty is frightening.
Most of the UAM lacked ID-documents. Most of them knew which year they were born, but not the exact day. They were registered as minors, but the authorities presupposed that most of them were over 18 years of age. To “prove” this, the Government told the National Board of Forensic Medicine (RMV) to find a safe method for deciding whether they were over or under 18. The RMV chose a method that was not evaluated, magnetic resonance (MR) of knee joint in combination with x-ray of wisdom teeth. The Migration agency decided to rely only on this examination instead of doing a balanced assessment of all evidence, as well as not to use the benefit of doubt, which is recommended by UN and EU authorities.
The civil society soon realised that also very young boys were considered to be 18. Medical professors and statisticians questioned the method, but the RMV and the Migration agency did not react. Around 10,000 teenagers (most of them boys) had their age changed to 18+. According to the results of the Government’s investigation, presented in 2021, there was no evidence what so ever for the method chosen. The method is still in use, although the Migration agency made some changes of the interpretation.
The asylum process is focused on making the refugee deportable. The administrators try to find the reasons to reject, sometimes in absurdum. The investigations show considerable shortcomings when it comes to rule of law: Administrators starts from their own values, their own perceptions when judging a story. They lack relevant knowledge about the country of deportation and its culture. Too often, all documents are judged to have low evidential value, in all instances: medical certificates for mental health, certificates from school health care staff, social services and teachers about age, as well as tazkiras and passports, school certificates and vaccination certificates from the home country.
The investigations of atheists, Christians and LGBTI-persons can make one laugh – if it was not a question of a young persons life. Generally, refugees are not regarded as credible. It is not uncommon that the Migration agency breaks its own rules.
One weak point was the interpreters, who often talked another version of the Persian language, creating difficulties in the communication between the asylum seeker and the interpreter. Many of them had scarce knowledge of Swedish. As the young refugees had been to school in Sweden for at least two years, they understood Swedish. Also when they corrected the interpreter, the administrator did not want to change what the interpreter had said. Often the interpreters were Muslim, and some did not want to translate Christian expressions properly – to say that Jesus is the son of God would be against Islam.
Another weak point is the legal representatives, appointed by the Migration agency. The economic compensation is not high, which triggers many of the legal representatives to invest as little time as possible for the case.
Finally, the courts are nearly exclusively relying on the judgementes of the Migration agency. Evidence is put aside, without even a notice in the protocol. In very few cases, the courts have changed the decisions.
Author: Dr. (Ms) Ingrid Eckerman, founder of the network and facebookgroup Stop deportations to Afghanistan! (Stoppa utvisningarna till Afghanistan!) and editor of the book The Unneccesary Refugee Crisis – rule of law, the civil society and the refugees 2015 – 2021 (Den onödiga flyktingkrisen – rättssäkerheten, civilsamhället och flyktingarna 2015 – 2021).
Other texts in English:
Stop deportations to Afghanistan (Stoppa utvisningarna till Afghanistan)
The Unnecessary Refugee Cricis (Den onödiga flyktingkrisen)
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