• Sweden's news in English
 

Sweden seems to forget 'the other' immigrants

The Local · 22 May 2014, 10:27

Published: 22 May 2014 10:27 GMT+02:00

A report released this week revealed that an EU-high 91 percent of Swedes thought that “immigrants contribute a lot to Sweden”. That figure represented the highest score of all EU countries, where the average was 48 percent.

The news left Sweden’s Integration Minister Erik Ullenhag beaming.

“This is a positive result, fantastic actually,” he told The Local on Friday. “It means Sweden and Swedish people have become more used to immigration.” 

At first glance, this would seem to be very good news. It does, however, beg a question that I have wanted to address for some time now. What exactly is the Swedish definition of immigrant?

From what I have read and experienced in my Swedish wanderings, it seems that when discussing immigration in Sweden its meaning defaults directly to the newcomers who are granted asylum.  

What Sweden fails to recognize is that there are more immigrants in Sweden than the newest refugee population.

And while we do not flee conflict, we, "the others", do fall through the cracks in some important respects. Somehow, the notion that we "can always go back" home puts us in a different category, unjustly I believe, from refugees. We came by choice. We came for love, for work, or we trailed our spouses. We are expats, love-pats, foreign professionals. We are immigrants too, but sometimes I can't help but feel that we have been forgotten.

The integration minister pointed out in his interview with The Local that immigrants who are granted asylum get permanent residence (permanent uppehållstillstånd - Put). We don't.

"If you look back at history you can see that integration is tougher on temporary permits. If you’re not sure that you’ll stay in Sweden, it’s much harder to learn Swedish and to plan for your future,” he said.

He is of course right. The indefinite right to stay can determine one’s ability to succeed in this country.

I can certainly tell you that the majority of my expat and love-pat friends didn’t get a permanent residence permit. Our driver’s licenses became invalid after one year of residence. Our educations and prior professional backgrounds go unrecognized. We wanted jobs. We wanted to contribute. And yet so many of our skills, educations, and backgrounds have continued to be ignored.

The policy of permanent residence may be warranted for the refugees, many of whom have no other home to go to. But many of "the others”, who did not flee but still made sacrifices - sold homes, interrupted careers, left friends -  they remain unemployed after years of job searching, and they feel their voices are not heard.

For me, as a love-pat, if the relationship with my Swedish fiancé ends I have to return home. As far as integration goes, there’s nothing like learning that you are disposable to make you feel unwelcome in your new country.

So, what is meant by “getting used to immigration”?

- Are native Swedes interacting with immigrants at work?
- Is the government and the businesses working to ensure that ALL immigrants can find work and contribute to society?
- Do their children play together in the school yard?
- Will they invite an immigrant from Iran, Mexico, or South Africa to fika? 

Or are Swedes merely getting used to hearing about immigration or seeing immigrants on the bus on their way to separate neighbourhoods?

What is "getting used to immigration"? I have a strong feeling that the Swedish self-censure machine is at work here, because I feel that Swedish natives are, at this point, so trepidatious of saying something wrong, of voicing an opinion for fear of being seen as intolerant, or racist, or xenophobic that all they can say is something nice. I don't consider that democratic, I don't consider it freedom of speech.

I sincerely hope that the good news is that Sweden is “getting used to immigration”, but what exactly does that mean … and for whom?

Lisa Mikulski is a Gothenburg-based writer and photographer.

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Tax changes could cut costs for Swedish firms
Sweden is home to many of the world's successful startups, such as Spotify. Photo: Lars Pehrson/TT

Tax changes could cut costs for Swedish firms

7 hours ago

UPDATED: Swedish Enterprise and Innovation Minister Mikael Damberg has told The Local about his action plan to turn Stockholm into the top startup city in the world. But critics of his proposals say they are too vague.

Euro 2016
‘I get a kick out of doing things that hurt you’
Zlatan Ibrahimovic at the press conference on Wednesday. Photo: Pontus Lindahl/TT

‘I get a kick out of doing things that hurt you’

2 hours ago

Sweden's star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic has caused a stir after mouthing off in a press conference when a Swedish journalist asked about his business interests, ahead of his national side's Euro 2016 qualifier with Russia.

Hairy Swedish panties sew up artist's reputation
The hairy knickers. Photo: Private

Hairy Swedish panties sew up artist's reputation

3 hours ago

A pair of knickers made from thousands of strands of human hair has knitted overnight success for its maker. Swedish craftswoman Nina Sparr tells The Local that her efforts mirror a traditional craft that has been popular in her family for centuries.

Former Swedish Saab bosses appear in court
Saab's former CEO Jan Åke Jonsson. Photo: Karin Olander/TT

Former Swedish Saab bosses appear in court

4 hours ago

Swedish car maker Saab's former CEO Jan Åke Jonsson and the firm's former head lawyer Kristina Geers have appeared in court in Vänersborg in west Sweden, accused of falsifying financial documents shortly before the company went bankrupt in 2011.

Secret anti-immigration blogger's name exposed
A file image of a Swede using the internet. Photo: Bertil Ericson/TT

Secret anti-immigration blogger's name exposed

8 hours ago

UPDATED: 'Julia Caesar', an anonymous right-wing blogger who has blasted Swedish journalists for writing an "epoch of lies" about the benefits of immigration, is herself a former reporter for Sweden's biggest broadsheet, Dagens Nyheter, according to a Swedish tabloid.

Plea for help in hunt for Swedish woman's killer
Ida Johansson, who was found dead on a running track in Upplands Väsby. Photo: Polisen

Plea for help in hunt for Swedish woman's killer

12 hours ago

Swedish police have released a picture of the 21-year-old jogger murdered on a running track almost a month ago as her mother prepares to make a television appeal.

Swedish museum makes way for iconic train
The iconic Swiss locomotive. Photo: SBB

Swedish museum makes way for iconic train

11 hours ago

Railway buffs in Sweden are on track for a treat as a rare Swiss locomotive is set to roll into a Swedish transport museum in the coming days to celebrate a century of electric trains in the Nordic country.

The Local List
Seven bizarre Swedish academic traditions
Student life in Lund, southern Sweden. Photo: Johan Nilsson/SCANPIX

Seven bizarre Swedish academic traditions

12 hours ago

As thousands of students flock to Sweden's university towns for the start of the semester, The Local guides you through the top academic traditions you need to know about.

Swede wakes up with Justin Bieber on buttock
The Swede says he can't remember how he ended up with Bieber's name on his backside. Photo: stamminen/Instagram

Swede wakes up with Justin Bieber on buttock

1 day ago

A man in central Sweden has more reason than most to regret a drunken night out - after waking up with Justin Bieber's name on his backside.

Video
Video of Swedish longboarder goes viral
Ishtar Tussilago taking a tight corner in the Norwegian mountains. Photo: Screengrab

Video of Swedish longboarder goes viral

1 day ago

Stunning footage of Swedish longboarder Ishtar Bäcklund and fellow riders skating down the Norwegian mountains has gone viral, pulling in over 190,000 views on Vimeo.

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS

National
VIDEO: Swedish longboarder builds dreams with viral film
National
Swedish billionaire blasted for 'lonely' Twitter rant
Gallery
Property of the week: Stuverum, Västervik
National
Swedish ship rescues 5,295 refugees
National
TIMELINE: Everything you need to know about the Julian Assange case
Blog updates

28 August

Editor’s blog, August 28th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hello readers, It was all glitz and glamour in Sweden this week as Stockholm Fashion Week got..." READ »

 

18 August

Preteritum eller presens perfekt? (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hello everyone, It’s grammar time ! I got an interesting question about the past tense vs present..." READ »

 
 
 
Gallery
People-watching: August 28th-30th
National
'Sweden Democrats will run the country'
National
Swedish bin men hailed as heroes after rescuing doomed kitten
National
This Swedish teen was told she was 'too big' to be a model
Sponsored Article
'It gives you the guts to believe in yourself'
Gallery
People-watching: August 26th
Sponsored Article
Nine places where Stockholm needs more English
National
Rescued baby lemur gets new Stockholm home
National
Stockholm Fashion Week turns island into Mars
Gallery
Property of the week: Stora Essingen, Stockholm
National
Swedish crayfish thieves caught red handed by officers
National
Veil soon to be lifted on new Millennium sequel novel
Gallery
People-watching: August 21st - 22nd
Cecilia Larsson Lantz/imagebank.sweden.se
Presented by Stockholm Academic Forum
International students welcomed to Stockholm
National
The Bridge: What does the third season have in store?
National
Lucky escape for Swedes after 'dead' bear launches attack
National
Syrian asylum seeker comic: 'We don't prefer Sweden any more'
Lifestyle
Baby joy for Swedish crime queen and her wrestler boyfriend
National
Soldier accused of faking first Isis attack in Sweden
National
Fire alert as Sweden sizzles in summer heatwave
Gallery
People-watching: August 19th
National
Meet the Swede who is crazy for Norway’s mass killer
National
Swede's review of night in drunk tank goes viral
National
VIDEO: Swedish teen melts hearts with this incredible Idol audition
Society
What's a Swedish crayfish party?
National
UN: Sweden can't be left to shoulder migrant crisis alone
Gallery
Property of the week: Skogås, Huddinge
National
Men outstrip women for first time
Society
IN PICTURES: Wooden town resembles 'war zone' after huge fire
Gallery
People-watching: August 14th-16th
Sport
Swedish referee shuts viral Facebook page explaining his decisions
Business & Money
A studio in Stockholm or a castle in the countryside?
National
How did twelve skeletons end up beneath a Swedish castle?
Gallery
People-watching: August 12th
National
Millennium sequel author labelled 'grave robber'
National
Two metre long python stops traffic in Malmö
National
IN PICTURES: Shoppers pay tribute to Ikea stabbing victims
Technology
Danish 'monster' pulled out of Swedish waters
National
Bizarre baby baptism for hockey fan
Gallery
Property of the week: Löderup, Ystad
Sponsored Article
Getting pregnant the Swedish way
Sponsored Article
Outsourcing drives Apreel's Europe growth
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

3,171
jobs available
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
psdmedia.se