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‘Activist’ Staff Thwarted Swedish Attempts to Deport Migrants

Migration Board employees granted permanent residency to as many migrants as possible before new rules to tighten Sweden’s asylum policy came into force, sources told Svenska Dagbladet.

Employees were acting as “activists” because they didn’t like the change in policy, which made it the norm for migrants to be given temporary rather than permanent residence permits, and restricted right to family reunification.

After it was announced in early April that the government were making changes to the asylum system so as to slow the flow of new arrivals, activity at the Migration Board saw a significant increase. Svenska Dagbladet heard from sources that despite it being the holiday season, workers stayed in the office to “pump out” the permits before the news rules came in on July 20.

From May to June, the number of outstanding asylum cases that were decided rose by 20 per cent, while the number of migrants granted permanent residency rose from 50 per cent to 62 per cent. In July — usually the middle of a holiday for the board’s employees — the number of cases decided rose even faster, and the share of migrants given permits grew to 71 per cent.

Accessing the board’s detailed statistics, Svenska Dagbladet found the rush to grant residence permits sped up as the date at which the new rules came in drew nearer. On July 19, the day before they were to come into force, the number of cases more than doubled to 995 decided, from 411 on July 18. A record 87 per cent of migrants dealt with that day were granted permanent residence permits.

On July 20 after rules were tightened, the number of cases, and the rate at which migrants were approved, moved much closer to the expected level: 213 requests were decided, 54 per cent of which were approved.

“I think the officers, aware of the consequences of the coming rule changes, were trying to issue as many permanent residence permits as possible,” Velibor Ljepoja, business expert on asylum issues at the Swedish Migration Board, said.

Svenska Dagbladet heard from other sources within the Migration Board that some staff and officials were acting as “asylum activists”.

“I have personally heard from asylum officers how, in July, some devices were pumping out hundreds of permanent residence permits as possible before the new law would come into force,” a source told Svenska Dagbladet. They explained that most of the board’s administrators and decision-makers disagree with the new law.

Veronika Kant Lindstrand, deputy head of operations at the board, stressed that the behaviour was in no way ordered by the management, and said the Migration Board can be relied on to abide by the country’s rules.

“This is how it is. Migration Board officials and decision makers follow the laws in force. On July 20, the new legislation came into force. Before then, we applied the old framework.”

After the Afghan government recently reached an agreement allowing Sweden to send migrants back to Afghanistan, the Migration Board last week released a statement which claims the situation in the nation has “deteriorated” and that this means “the individual risk need not be as great as before to the claimant to obtain protection in Sweden”.

According to the board, it’s now too unsafe for migrants to be deported, and they believe “it is hard to see any improvement in the situation in Afghanistan”, with any possible solution only “far away” in the future.

In recent months, hundreds of thousands of Afghan migrants have left Pakistan, with two million more having to return voluntarily or face deportation.

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