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Protests over housing for refugee children

A former youth hostel in Vellinge outside of Malmö in southern Sweden opened its doors on Thursday as temporary housing for refugee children, despite bitter complaints from local residents and politicians.

Protests over housing for refugee children

Controversy has surrounded the decision by officials in Malmö to use the property, located in the village of Hököpinge, with the matter being branded as a “circus” by the local council in Vellinge, which has refused to house asylum seekers for years.

Nevertheless, around 30 boys from Afghanistan and Somalia are expected to move into the building, which is run by independent company Attendo Care on behalf of Malmö County Council.

Vellinge council chief Lars-Ingvar Ljungman said he feels that officials in Malmö unfairly overruled his council’s decision.

He vowed to investigate ways to close down the building ahead of Thursday’s opening, with local fire inspection officials expected to stop by and deem the property a health and safety hazard.

”No fire inspectors have shown up and health and safety inspectors didn’t find any shortfalls despite a bit of damp in some of the rooms,” Jonas Morian, spokesperson from Attendo Care, told the TT news agency on Thursday.

“The housing has been a youth hostel until fairly recently and complies with the necessary rules and regulations.”

The children are expected to live in the transit accommodation in Vellinge for a several weeks before being transferred to a number of other municipalities which have agreed to provide permanent housing.

According to Morian, Malmö has been struggling to manage a recent increase in refugee children and designated housing is now full, forcing some children to live in hotels.

Officials have managed to find property in other small towns in the Skåne region, raising concerns from some local residents

“The worries of those residents were put to rest after an information meeting was held,” said Morian.

“The people in Vellinge have a whole different attitude which we think is very unfortunate.”

Calls have been made by Skåne Christian Democrat politician Otto von Arnold to change the mindset of residents.

“To receive children from other countries can result in a positive contribution,” he said in a statement.

“Young people are coming here that can add to the development of the local community.”

Writing in newspaper Aftonbladet on Thursday, Swedish migration minister Tobias Billström stated that Vellinge must take its share of responsibility.

“To take care of these children is a matter for the council whether Vellinge wants it to be or not,” Billström wrote.

A Facebook group entitled “Vi som skäms över Vellinges flyktingpolitik” (‘We who are ashamed of Vellinge’s refugee policy’), urged its members to send email protests to the local council on Thursday.

“We’re not going to crash their server, we just want to be extremely irritating for them,” read the Facebook plea.

The emails received by the municipality on Thursday included views both criticizing and in support of Vellinge’s actions, according to Sveriges Television’s local affiliate.

“As a former Vellinge resident, I’m ashamed over your reaction and hope that you realize that you’ve got the refugee issue totally wrong for 2009,” read one critical email.

“Bravo, stand up for yourselves; Vellinge is a setting an example; if only your courage existed in other municipalities,” read an email praising Vellinge’s actions.

For members

READER QUESTIONS

Reader question: How do you meet the requirements for a sambo visa?

In Sweden, a sambo is domestic partner – someone you’re in a relationship with and live with, but to whom you aren’t married. If you, as a non-EU citizen, are in a sambo relationship with a Swedish citizen, you can apply for a residence permit on the basis of that relationship. But meeting the requirements of that permit is not always straightforward.

Reader question: How do you meet the requirements for a sambo visa?

An American reader, whose son lives with his Swedish partner, wrote to The Local with questions about the maintenance requirement her son and his partner must meet in order to qualify for a sambo resident permit.

“Their specific issue is that they meet the requirements for a stable relationship and stable housing, but have been told that qualifying for a sambo visa based on savings is unlikely,” she wrote, asking for suggestions on how to approach this issue. Her son’s partner is a student with no income, but whose savings meet maintenance requirements. But, they have been told by lawyers that Migrationsverket will likely deny the application based on the absence of the Swedish partner’s income.

How do relationships qualify for sambo status?

In order to apply for a residence permit on the basis of a sambo relationship, you and your partner must either be living together, or plan to live together as soon as the non-Swedish partner can come to Sweden. Because this reader’s son is already in Sweden as a graduate student, he can apply for a sambo permit without having to leave the country, provided that his student permit is still valid at the time the new application is submitted.

The Migration Agency notes that “you can not receive a residence permit for the reason that you want to live with a family member in Sweden before your current permit expires”. So once your valid permit is close to expiration, you can apply for a new sambo permit.

What are the maintenance requirements for a sambo permit?

The maintenance requirements for someone applying for a sambo permit fall on the Swedish partner, who must prove that they are able to support both themselves and their partner for the duration of the permit. This includes both housing and financial requirements.

In terms of residential standards that applicants must meet, they must show that they live in a home of adequate size – for two adult applicants without children, that means at least one room with a kitchen. If rented, the lease must be for at least one year.

The financial requirements are more complicated. The Swedish partner must be able to document a stable income that can support the applicant and themselves – for a sambo couple, the 2022 standard is an income of 8,520 kronor per month. This burden falls on the Swedish partner.

While the Migration Agency’s website does say that you may “fulfil the maintenance requirement (be considered able to support yourself) if you have enough money/taxable assets to support yourself, other persons in your household and the family members who are applying for a residence permit for at least two years”, it is unclear how proof of this would be documented. On a separate page detailing the various documents that can be used to prove that maintenance requirements are met, there is nothing about how to document savings that will be used to support the couple.

Can you apply on the basis of savings instead of income?

Well, this is unclear. The Migration Agency’s website does suggest that having enough money saved up to support both members of the sambo relationship is an option, but it gives no details on how to document this. It is also unclear whether applying on the basis of savings will disadvantage applicants, with preference given to applicants who can show proof of income from work.

The Local has reached out to an immigration lawyer to answer this question. 

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