Their wait for asylum is long and uncertain

Foto: Mats Strand
Anxiously waiting Sehadija, 37, and her son Emil, 18, live in one of the high rise buildings by the little square in Nydala in Malmö. Her application for asylum has just been rejected. Emil is still waiting for a decision on his. Maybe it will be six months, maybe a year, until they find out if they can stay in Sweden.

In one of the high rise buildings right next to the little town square in Nydala in Malmö, Sehadija, 37, and her son Emil, 18, are waiting for us. This is a well kept area where much has been invested in the outer environment during the past years. The lawns are well tended and there are lots of nice patios and flowers everywhere.

The sublet apartment that Sehadija rents is small, and very sparsely furnished. Some of the furniture was already there, some of it she has bought at a second-hand shop.

”It is quiet and safe here and we like it,” Sehadija says, with a shy smile in her clear-cut face, while the tall Emil puts small cups on the table with very strong, very sweet, and very hot coffee.

In what Swedish he has already learnt he tells us that we should drink it right away before it gets cold.

On October 13 last year, Sehadija arrived in Malmö. She came from her small home town Rozaje, right next to the Montenegro borders on Kosovo and Serbia. Refugees from the war streamed forth a couple of years ago in this area. She left her son Emil behind.

”I had no idea who the people who were going to smuggle me out were, but I sensed that it could be a very dangerous journey and I thought that Emil was much too young to come along.”

January 5 this year, mother and son were finally reunited in Malmö.

Sehadija speaks a little Swedish, after only six months in Malmö.

”I can manage,” she says, but then she smiles awkwardly and turns to the interpreter for help.

”I can ask questions and answer them, I can go shopping in the store and I can haggle in the market-place.”

She has no real job while she waits for her request for asylum to be considered by the Immigration Authority. However, she does have a trainee post at a cleaning company. This is a new idea which is being tested here.

”I help out for a few hours every day at the cleaning company, and I have colleagues who are Swedes and from whom I can learn the language.”

It is a good system, she assures us. She has something to do during her long days which she would otherwise have spent brooding over her uncertain future. And she also learns how to speak everyday Swedish without having to be at school plodding away at grammar lessons.

Fact: 20 procent of the refugees attending the Swedish classes for immigrants (Sfi) pass the examination within a period of four years. (Refering to a study by Migrationsverket.)

The apartment costs her 250 dollars a month. Together, she and her son Emil receive 360 dollars to live on and 100 dollars of rent subsidly every month.

Not long after he had joined his mother in Malmö, Emil was able to begin high school at Pildammsskolan. He is in a class with other students that are also from other countries, but who have residence permits and speak Swedish rather well.

Emil gets wordy when he tells us about it. He is impressed with the school itself and how great his friends are.

He knows exactly what he is going to do after high school: study economics at the university.

If he gets to stay in Sweden, that is. Since he is 18 years old his request for asylum will be considered separately from his mother Sehadija’s.

Sehadija had an impossible life in Montenegro, she says. She was a single woman in a culture where single women are despised and subjected to constant harassment and violations.

”During the war I took care of many refugees from Kosovo and that wasn’t approved of either.”

Sehadija’s husband left her when Emil was only six months old. She managed to acquire custody of her son. In the early 1990s, she had a job in a carpet plant. Then she became unemployed and held temporary jobs. She gave sewing lessons and worked as a telephone operator for an organization which helped abused and persecuted women.

”I received so many threats from their husbands and other men that my life became completely intolerable.”

She therefore decided to flee the country, just like her brothers had done before her. Two of them fled to Germany, another two to Croatia. She sold her jewelry and her little car and managed to raise the 3 500 German Marks that the smugglers charged her for transporting her in a van along the Hungarian border, through Europe and across the Öresund bridge to Malmö. For a couple of weeks she stayed with a friend, after that she was able to move in to the little apartment in Nydala.

Fact: Almost 70 percent of all the asylum applicants are finally given a permanent residence in Sweden. This process can take four years or more.

When we meet in May she is still hoping for a permit and a future in Sweden. A few days later a letter arrived.

”I understood by myself that it was a rejection.”

A friend helped her translate all the words:

”It said that Montenegro could give me protection and that I should go back.

But I only say one thing: I’d rather die than go back there.”

Later that day Sehadija passed out in the street. When she awoke she was in the emergency room. Now she knows why she has felt so much pain in her body. The ultra sound showed a cyst in her left breast. When we talk to her in June her last remaining happiness seems to have vanished completely. Because of the decision to reject her application, she was forced to leave her trainee job at the cleaning company and she has nothing to do all day long. Now she has also received a letter from the hospital about the surgery she is going to have and she worries about the operation – and about the fact that Emil is not feeling well either and that the lawyer who is helping her appeal against the decision of the Immigration Authority has said that she must brace herself for a long period of waiting. At least six months, maybe a year.

”I’m not sure that I can make it. It is not easy to say but I often think that perhaps it would be best if I killed myself.”

But Emil will not let his mother give up.

”If she gets rejected I won’t let her leave me. In that case we will go to another country and try there. We will never go back to Montenegro.”

They still haven’t found a place to call their home.

Maria Trägårdh, Bo Lidén