Top civil servant blocked tsunami relief effort

The most senior civil servant in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Hans Dahlgren, stopped an emergency relief effort from the Swedish Rescue Services Agency (SRSA) on the first day of the tsunami catastrophe, it was revealed on Wednesday.

The foreign ministry’s line on the matter has always been that everything possible was done to bring assistance to Swedes in the disaster area. But as the blame for the government’s slack response continues to shift between ministers and civil servants, the working papers of the catastrophe commission suggest that was not the case.

Indeed, according to Svenska Dagbladet, decisions made by cabinet secretary Hans Dahlgren delayed relief by up to two days.

Aid minister Carin Jämtin and Karin Olofsdotter, secretary of state to foreign minister Laila Freivalds, both called for immediate support to be sent to the region. But the heads of the foreign ministry’s consular unit, Christina Palm and Jan Nordlander, said that there was no need for rescue services to be dispatched to Thailand, said SvD.

Jämtin called Hans Dahlgren at 4.30pm on the day of the tsunami, “since it was clear that Swedes had been affected”, as did Karin Olofsdotter, who said she was not satisfied with the consular unit’s assessment:

“I explained to him the information I had, and he said that we would follow the consular unit’s advice,” she told SvD.

Dahlgren claims that his refusal of assistance was based on a misunderstanding, saying that he thought the Swedish Rescue Services Agency in fact wanted to wait.

“When both the consular unit and the Swedish Rescue Services Agency are in agreement, there is no reason to question it,” he said.