ID clampdown on asylum seekers slammed

Sweden will bar asylum seekers who do not help authorities determine their identity from ever returning, an official said on Thursday, amid criticism from activists that the move could lead to human rights abuses.

“Asylum seekers who during the time their application is processed do not assist authorities in determining their identity, and who are denied asylum, will be barred from returning” to Sweden, Odd Guteland, a spokesman for Migration Minister Barbro Holmberg, told AFP.

According to Guteland, between 92 and 93 percent of all asylum seekers come to Sweden without identity papers.

“Most of these help the authorities to prove who they are… Identity is very, very important when it comes to granting asylum, since receiving asylum has to do with your relationship with your home country,” he said.

“But some people don’t help… The government should be able to place some demands on asylum seekers. Processing applications from this group takes a very long time,” he said, adding that the new rule had already gone into effect.

Human rights group Amnesty International on Thursday cautioned that the rule could punish asylum seekers with no means of proving who they are and lead to violations of their rights and those of their family and friends back home.

“This punishes asylum seekers who have done nothing wrong. They have only sought asylum,” Madelaine Sidlitz, a refugee case worker at Amnesty’s Swedish branch, told AFP, adding that many people do everything they can to assist authorities in determining their identity but are still accused of not helping.

“These people are thus black-listed not only from returning to Sweden but to all of the EU. They can’t even get a regular visa… They are being punished simply for not being able to prove who they are, something that for many refugees is a very difficult matter,” she added.

Putting pressure on asylum seekers to produce documents proving their identity can also prove risky for their loved ones in their home country, who could be subjected to abuse by authorities if they try to help locate the papers, according to Sidlitz.

“These are often people who have fled and who face dangers back home. Digging up ID papers can lead to reprisals on their relatives,” she said.

Guteland did not agree. “The risk is very small that something like that could happen,” he insisted.