Two paths to a new country


Aftonbladet examines US and Swedish refugee policies

1 av 2 | Foto: the new swedes Sadek and his family live in the outskirts of Örebro. His wife Taghrid is 25 and the son Jaffar 5 years old. A few months back they recieved the long awaited letter from the Immigrations office, allowing them to become real Swedes.

Sweden has a world famous reputation in conducting a human and generous refugee policy. But how well do the authorities integrate all the thousands of people who arrive to the country each year?

There are some investigations which show that among certain refugee groups, only one out of ten refugees manages in earning his own living after 3 years in Sweden.

In the longer run the statistics look a little better, but they are still gloomy:

The unemployment rate among those who have come as immigrants is about three times higher than among the Swedes.

Even within the authorities whose work it is to integrate the newly arrived, the criticism is growing.

Stig Kattilakoski, responsible for the development of the Refugees introduction (at the National Integration Office/Integrationsverket) considers that the task has failed: the long waiting periods for the asylum seekers are disastrous.

Year after year, thousands of people are waiting for their destiny - to be expulsed or admitted.

The reality for most of them is an uncertain, idle waiting without any work, with no right to study Swedish (SFI = Swedish for Immigrants), and obliged to resort to allowances.

Such a situation causes illness in the people, Stig Kattilakoski claims.

It also creates suspicion and conflicts. Having the authorities as the only link with the new country marginalizes people and isolates them.

”Many get caught as fish in the Swedish protection net of allowances. It is a tragedy not to be able to earn a living and to provide for one’s family and a waste of resources not to make use of these persons’ capacity and knowledge”, Kattilakoski says.

Today, we follow the path of three quite typical refugee families through the asylum procedures in their new country, Sweden.


...Musljum and Mefaze and both their children from Azerbaijan who were smuggled in to Sweden in May in a refrigerated trailer for fruit. Their anxious awaiting has just begun in an apartment in Degerfors.

...Sehadija in Malmö who has just now been reached by the news of an expulsion order. Now she must wait perhaps another year to have her case tried for the second time. She has lost her employment as a trainee at a cleaning company.

...Ismet, whose papers ended up straight at the Aliens Commission by mistake, resulting after 14 months in a residence permit. Now his new life in Växjö, together with his wife Bahrija and their two children, has just begun: four hours of daily practice work as a carpenter, learning Swedish for immigrants, and kindergarten for the children.

Tomorrow we shall go to the United States to meet Ismets’ sister Saha and her family who have just arrived in the poor district of Bronx as refugees. They were checked and accepted outside the country by the American authorities.

They now have four months at their disposal to become self-sufficient, supported by voluntary organisations that are partly financed by charity and voluntary workers. The first monthly rents are paid for and they get money for food as long as this period lasts.

If they fail, the family must live on national food stamps.

In a two day report we will show how the world’s outcasts are received and integrated in Sweden and in the United States, two countries which have chosen completely different paths.

Maria Trägårdh, Bo Lidén