Man forced to re-apply for asylum after boarding wrong train

A mistake which put an Iraqi asylum seeker on the wrong train in Malmö in southern Sweden has forced him to start the asylum process all over again.

The 27-year-old man, who filed his original asylum claim in 2007, was visiting the Malmö office of the Swedish Migration Board (Migrationsverket) where he learned that a deportation order against him had been lifted and that his case would be reconsidered, the Smålandsposten newspaper reports.

Upon leaving the Migration Board offices, he then made his way to the city’s central train station to board a train back to his home near Växjö in south central Sweden.

But in the excitement that followed the realization that he was not going to be forced to leave Sweden, the man inadvertently boarded a train traveling in the opposite direction – to the Danish capital of Copenhagen.

Before he realized his mistake, the 27-year-old found himself caught up in a routine, on-board identity check being carried out by Danish police.

The man did his best to explain the situation, hoping police could direct him to the next train back to Sweden.

But instead he was taken in for questioning.

After three weeks, the Danish police finally brought the man back to Sweden.

“It would have been easier if the Danish police had simply pointed the man to the right train so he could have been back in Sweden in 15 minutes,” the man’s attorney, Eva Almström, told the newspaper.

The simple mistake has proven costly for the 27-year-old’s quest to gain asylum in Sweden.

In the eyes of Swedish migration officials, leaving the country for an unintended trip meas he must now submit a new application for asylum.

“He just has to start over from the beginning,” said Almström.

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Swedish Migration Agency boss admits confusing ‘patchwork’ of rules

Mikael Ribbenvik, the outgoing Director General of the Swedish Migration Agency, has acknowledged that Sweden's migration rules are a messy "patchwork", saying that he understands why applicants are confused.

Swedish Migration Agency boss admits confusing 'patchwork' of rules

In an interview with the Sydsvenskan newspaper, Ribbenvik, who will end his 24-year career at the Migration Agency in May, complained that migration legislation had become ever more complicated and confusing over the past decade as a result of a series of coalition governments where different parties have “sought to cram in all their pet issues”. 

Since the refugee crisis in 2015, there has been the temporary migration law from 2016, which made temporary residency the default for asylum seekers, and then the two ‘gymnasium laws’, which he described as “half-amnesties”. 

The two laws opened the way for people who had come to Sweden as unaccompanied child asylum seekers and whose asylum application had been rejected to stay if they finished upper secondary school and got a job. 

Now, Ribbenvik worried, a new barrage of new laws from the three-party right wing government and their far-right backers, the Sweden Democrats, risked making the system even more complicated. 

“The legislation is starting to become too complicated for anyone to understand. It’s absolutely impossible to explain in the media, because you don’t have the time,” he told the newspaper. “We need to have our absolutely smartest migration people in our legal unit to work everything out.” 

When the new government announced its intention to phase out permanent residency, the agency’s phones were deluged with worried calls from permanent residency holders. 

Ribbenvik summarised the message to Sydsvenskan as: “OK, you can stay… no, you can’t stay.”

“I have a great amount of understanding for the confusion this has caused,” he said. “Debate articles attack the Migration Agency, and we’re an easy target. But this is a consequence of the legislation there has been in recent years.” 

After Sweden’s government announced that Ribbenvik’s contract was not going to be extended, Björn Söder, a Sweden Democrat MP and member of the parliament’s defence committee, celebrated the decision. 

“Time to tidy up Agency Sweden,” Söder wrote on Twitter. “Kick the asylum activists out of the agency.”

In the Sydsvenskan interview, Ribbenvik characterised himself as a “proud bureaucrat”, who was apolitical and saw his role as enacting the orders of politicians in the best way possible. He didn’t join the agency because of a passion for immigration issues, but because he needed a part-time job while he finished his law degree, he said. 

“I read now that I’m a Director-General appointed by the Social Democrats. So am I going to be politicised now, right at the end? Because I never have been before.” 

Very often, he said, attacks like Söder’s “say nothing about the accused, but a lot about the accuser”. 

He did say, however, tell the newspaper that he had been surprised by how quickly the debate had shifted in Sweden from the days when most of the criticism the agency received came from those wanting more liberal treatment for asylum seekers to today, when they are accused of being too lenient. 

“As someone who’s worked here for 24 years, I’m stunned over how the debate has shifted in recent months, when the whole time I’ve been here, it’s been the opposite: ‘why do you analyse people’s language, why do you do age assessments?’. We’ve always been criticised from the other direction.”