• Sweden's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Afghan translator pins hope on Swedish asylum

Ann Törnkvist · 6 Feb 2014, 09:42

Published: 06 Feb 2014 09:42 GMT+01:00

Slim and youthful-looking, Fahim speaks with The Local over a crackly Skype connection. While calm and collected, he says his family lives in a "traditional" neighbourhood where not everyone appreciates his four-year stint as an interpreter for the Swedish military.

"I have some fanatic neighbours who blamed me for working with foreigners. Even after I quit the job, I was often threatened directly and indirectly," says Fahim. 

He says his neighbours have spewed "propaganda" about his work for the Nato-led International Security and Assistance Force (Isaf), with residents in Mazar-e-Sharif seeing no differences between Swedish forces and, for example, US soldiers operating in the south.

Letters and calls telling Fahim to stop working with the Swedes have always been anonymous, meaning Fahim lives with the knowledge that the threats could come from anyone - a next-door-neighbour or someone tied more closely to local insurgents.

"I think my life is in danger if I stay here," says Fahim.

Despite Fahim's fears, the Swedish Migration Board (Migrationsverket) believes that internal migration in Afghanistan is possible for some people - men and families with an adult male, in particular those moving to the capital Kabul and other larger towns.

"One precondition, however, is that no one in the family has any disability or other medical problems," the analysis, updated on January 17th, stated.

Fahim does not think moving to another part of the country would be enough to protect him and his fiancée. Desperate to leave Afghanistan, Fahim has asked his former employers at Camp Northern Lights for help. The Swedish Armed Forces (Försvarsmakten) have confirmed that Fahim, which is not his real name, worked as an interpreter for them.

The young Afghan said that he was part of a group of 24 interpreters that last year implored Sweden to grant them asylum. Swedish migration law, however, states that an applicant must physically be in Sweden to submit his or her case. The translators' plea nonetheless received the backing of the military's Supreme Commander Sverker Göransson

Sweden's Armed Forces currently have just shy of 30 translators either in direct employ or subcontracted through the company Supreme. However, officials did not have an exact figure of how many translators its soldiers have worked with in Mazar-e-Sharif since leading operations there in 2006.

In December, the Migration Board announced it would grant asylum to an undisclosed number of Isaf interpreters. But Fahim was not one of them. His former colleagues were granted asylum as part of the UNHCR-managed refugee quota system, which Migration Board department head Oskar Eklund says is determined by the Swedish parliament. Neither his staff nor the Armed Forces have the power to alter the number of quota refugees.

"That is set by parliament, which means that ultimately the number is decided at the ballot box in September," Ekblad tells The Local.  "The interpreters were resettled as part of the 350 emergency resettlement quota we have at our disposal."

Could the quota refugee system, also referred to as resettlement, help Fahim?

"That tool still exists, and there is still a possibility to use that process," Ekblad explains. "But I can't comment on how we cooperate (with the Armed Forces) to use it."

Fahim says he spoke about his situation with Migration Board officials late last year and was told to wait. Ever since, Fahim has scoured both the Migration Board's and the Armed Forces' websites for more information, and last week made sure officers at Camp Northern Light communicated his predicament to headquarters in Stockholm. The Armed Forces tells The Local that it interviews its translators frequently to asses the threat level.

"When we make the judgment that we can not handle security for the individual, we take the necessary steps," an Armed Forces spokesman says. "We have an ongoing dialogue with the Migration Board to prepare these cases. But we do not comment on individual cases.

Story continues below…

"We cannot today say how the threat (against them) will change once we leave Afghanistan."

Fahim doesn't think he would be out of danger if he left Mazar-e-Sharif to live elsewhere in the country.

"Even if I move to the capital or another province, I will not be safe," Fahim explains, noting that several of the missions he undertook with the Swedes took him to villages where insurgents, opposed both to foreign forces and the government of current President Hamid Karzai, were active.

"They recognize my face." 

This article was updated at 14.17pm on March 14th, 2014. The Migration Board granted asylum to an undisclosed number of interpreters in December 2013, not 30 translators as previously stated. 

Ann Törnkvist (ann.tornkvist@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Presented by American Express
6 simple travel hacks that will make your life easier
File photo: Pixabay

Getting ready to jet off on summer holidays? Be sure to check out these tips and tricks for avoiding unnecessary headaches between packing and relaxing.

Royal husband: 'Britain should not leave the EU'
Sweden's Princess Madeleine and her British-American husband Chris O'Neill. Photo: Mikael Fritzon/TT

What does this British-American husband of a Swedish princess think of Brexit and Hillary Clinton?

This Swede is the world's best mosquito catcher
Kristoffer Ekersund. Photo: Private & Johan Nilsson/TT

Yes, there is such a thing as the world championship in mosquito killing.

Which of these two Swedes is Vincent van Gogh's lost twin?
Ivar Arpi, a self-portrait of Vincent van Gogh and Petter Samuelson. Photo: Tomlin Studio & Private

Question: What is even more bizarre than a Swede who really, really looks like Vincent van Gogh? Answer: TWO Swedes who look like Vincent van Gogh.

Date set for verdict in asylum home murder trial in Sweden
The accused in court with a member of his legal team. Photo: Adam Ihse/TT

The trial of a man accused of killing a worker at a home for young refugees earlier this year has ended.

High security as Orlando top of mind at Stockholm Pride
This man might not actually be a police officer. Photo: Vilhelm Stokstad/TT

Nothing is being left to chance, organizers insist.

Fired Ericsson boss to get millions in payouts
Hans Vestberg of Ericsson. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

Swedish telecoms giant Ericsson has fired its long-standing CEO Hans Vestberg, but said he will receive a severance package amounting to millions of kronor.

Sweden halves migration forecast figures for 2016
Refugees and other travellers arriving in Gothenburg last year. Photo: Adam Ihse/TT

The Swedish Migration Agency has cut its predictions for how many asylum seekers they expect will come to Sweden this year.

Private holiday rentals boom in Sweden
A youth hostel in Sundsvall, central Sweden. Photo: Helena Landstedt / TT

More tourists in Sweden are choosing to rent private homes from the likes of Airbnb – but the hotel industry is just fine.

My Swedish Career
'Fashion is this big industry that can really do better'
Social entrepreneur Stefanie Smith. Photo: Elinor Magnusson

The Local talks to US social entrepreneur Stefanie Smith about transparent fashion and why Sweden's startup scene is about more than just tech.

Sponsored Article
What can newcomers learn about Sweden at Almedalen?
National
Sweden's Hollywood star Alicia Vikander puts her pen in the bottle
Sponsored Article
5 reasons you should try dating with The Inner Circle
Gallery
People-watching: July 22nd-24th
The Local Voices
The Jewish Syrian who dreams of rebuilding his country
Blog updates

22 July

After the horror, carry on regardless (Globally Local) »

"This time last week, we were just digesting the horror of the Nice killings, in which…" READ »

 

11 July

Swedish quizzes (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! I have created some quizzes you can take online to test your Swedish skills. Here…" READ »

 
 
 
National
Watch this Swedish weather host leave his fly open... on live TV
Sponsored Article
Gran Canaria: Where Swedes go to work (and play)
The Local Voices
'I fled war in Syria. I never expected to be beaten in Sweden'
National
WATCH: Asylum seeker brutally beaten by Swedish bus driver
Technology
Why everyone is talking about Sweden's GTA pride parade
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
National
EU hits truck cartel with record price fixing fine
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
Society
OPINION: Why Sweden is the most extreme country in the world
The Local Voices
'There is equality in accommodation in Sweden: Everyone is suffering'
Sponsored Article
Five easy ways to travel more often
Gallery
Property of the week: Gräsö, Östhammar
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Gallery
People-watching: July 15th-17th
National
How to make sure you're not caught out by Sweden's old bank notes
Sponsored Article
'Sweden's Lauryn Hill' touches the country's musical soul
Business & Money
Why Sweden has been named the most innovative country in Europe
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
National
Terror attack: what should you do?
National
French expat on the moment he was assaulted by a Stockholm bouncer
Sponsored Article
Local guide: the best of Berlin
Technology
Gunman? Nah, smartphone Swede
Sponsored Article
Why you need a EuroBonus American Express Card
The Local Voices
'If the war in Syria ended today, would you go back?'
The Local Voices
‘I feel like I’m living in a grave!’
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Sweden's Princess Victoria celebrates 39th birthday
Gallery
People-watching: July 13th
National
Swedes discover surprise mountain
Politics
What Sweden's home secretary thinks of Britain's new PM
Gallery
Property of the week: Smedjebacken, Dalarna
The Local Voices
'Even xenophobic Swedes can be polite’
Politics
WATCH: A very Swedish take on Brexit...
National
Swede's fury at Daily Mail's Bråvalla 'lies'
Gallery
People-watching: July 8th-10th
National
Sweden and Denmark trolled each other on Twitter and it's hilarious
The Local Voices
'The best time to be smuggled to Europe is August 20th, 2015'
The Local Voices
Swedes: Stop obsessing over your material life and start talking to strangers
3,347
jobs available