söndag 6 december 2020

Asylum investigations of Afghan citizens in Sweden 2015-2020

This is a summary in English of the report "Sveriges asylutredningar av afghanska medborgare 2015–2020 version 1, oktober 2020" from the network Stop deportations to Afghanistan! (Stoppa utvisningarna till Afghanistan!) October 2020. 

Summary in English      

1. Introduction and background

In 2015, 41,500 migrants of Afghan origin applied for asylum in Sweden. Of those, 23,500 were registered as unaccompanied minors and taken care of according to international rules. The majority of them were boys.

It was early clear that the Swedish government decided to get rid of most of those boys irrespectively of their grounds for asylum, although the civil society willingly stood up for supporting them.

2. Changes in laws and regulations

July 20, 2016, the Swedish parliament voted for a new law, in order to restrict the number of asylum seekers to Sweden. The law came into force retroactively from November 25, 2015. Two grounds for asylum were removed, that might have benefitted the unaccompanied minors, and temporary residence permits became the rule.

The criticism from the civil society, including Save the Children, the Red Cross, UNHCR, UNICEF and Amnesty International, and authorities like the Migration Agency, the Law Council and the courts, was hard.  

In addition to the legal changes, the Migration Agency changed its practices in several ways, in order to make the youngsters and other refugees possible to deport.

3. The asylum process

The rule of law in Sweden’s asylum processes has been severely questioned by human rights organisations, lawyers and researchers.

Because of the large refugee wave in 2015-2016, and that refugees of Syrian origin were prioritized, the Afghan refugees had to wait 1-3 years for their first interview. As a rule, the asylum case officer from the Migration Agency did not believe in the asylum seeker’s story which led to refusal. Refusal were more common among unaccompanied minors who had become adults, compared to those who were adults when they arrived. Contrary to other countries, Sweden does not follow the recommendations from UNHCR and accepts internal displacement for deported refugees in Afghanistan.

The courts most often accepted the assessment from the Migrations Agency without questioning. The Migration Agency officially admits that many asylum applications have not been handled correctly.

4. Examples of failing rule of law

In the full report, there are many examples of failing rule of law for converts to Christianity, atheists, LGBTQ persons, women and children. That they do not receive protection constitutes repeated crimes against the conventions of human rights.

5. Age assessments and age revaluation

Age assessment at arrival was made by a quick ocular inspection, and many were regarded as adults, disregarding their own claims to be minors. During the asylum investigation, many unaccompanied children were assessed as adults, with no motivation, sometimes contrary to certificates from professionals.

In 2017, a new method, based on x-ray of teeth and CT of knee, was developed. When hardly anyone of the minors was assessed as below 18, scientists scrutinized the background to the method. It turned out that mistakes in the process had been made from three authorities: The National Board of Health and Welfare, the National Board of Forensic Medicine (RMV) and the Migration Agency.  An unknown number of minors have been incorrectly assessed as adults. In spite of this, the RMV is still using the same method, and the Migration Agency is accepting it.

In January 2019, the Government accepted the demands to appoint an independent inquiry. The experts were appointed in October 2020. The medical society is protesting that the experts are biased.

6. Psychological unhealth

The refugees often bear traumas from before and during the flight. The prolonged period of uncertainty about their future has added to this. It is most obvious among the unaccompanied minors. During 2017, the suicide rate was 10 times higher in this group, compared to Swedish youngsters of the same age.

7. The possibility to stay for studies

To mitigate the consequences of the new law, the politicians were forced to offer the possibility for the youngsters to get permanent residence permits by completing vocational high school and get a job. This was associated with several conditions. Those who were registered as asylum seekers after November 24, 2015, as well as children who came with their families, were excluded.

Around 7,000 were accepted, and as many were excluded. It is still unclear how many will finally be allowed to stay.

8. The return agreements

The EU parliament never got the chance to vote about the “return agreement”, which thus is not legally binding. The focus of the agreement was on returning refugees, not on aid or the reasons to why people flee. The Afghan parliament voted no to the agreement with Sweden. The Swedish parliament never voted.

The migration and refugee ministers of Afghanistan have repeatedly asked European countries to stop the deportations, as they cannot offer a “smooth, dignified and orderly” reception of the refugees. The Swedish migration minister Morgan Johansson denies he have ever received these messages.

Around 14,000 Afghans have been denied residence permit. During 2017 - 2019, 1 353 people has travelled to Afghanistan, of whom 540 with force. During 2019, 107 people got support from ERRIN.

Many of “voluntary returnees” have signed a paper in English that they don’t understand.

After being rejected asylum, it is not illegal to stay in Sweden. All the same, refugees are hunted like criminals and locked up in detention centres. For transports to Afghanistan, handcuffs and tranquilizers are used. It happens that ill people are just left at the airport in Kabul, with no one meeting them. 

Contact: Ingrid Eckerman ingrid.eckerman@gmail.com +460705573193 

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