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IMMIGRATION

Sweden deports Iraqi refugees amid protests

Despite widespread protests, Sweden deported 20 people back to Iraq on Wednesday after they had been denied asylum, police said.

Sweden deports Iraqi refugees amid protests

Deportations to Iraq also took place in Denmark.

“In total, 26 people were deported, 20 from Sweden and six from Denmark” on board a plane travelling to Baghdad on Wednesday, the Stockholm police said in a statement.

Ahead of the deportations, human rights groups and the UN refugee agency UNHCR had called on the countries to rethink the move, insisting it was too dangerous to send the rejected asylum seekers — reportedly some of them Christians and homosexuals who risk persecution — back to Iraq.

“The deportations were in accordance with expulsion orders from the Swedish National Migration Board (Migrationsverket), immigration courts and ordinary courts, which were handed over to police authorities,” police said.

Earlier on Wednesday, police detained 25 people who protested outside an asylum seeker detention center near the Swedish capital. The protesters were reportedly part of a group of up to 100 people trying to block the mass deportation.

The Swedish section of Amnesty International had asked Immigration Minister Tobias Billström to halt the return of Iraqis, while the country’s Christian Council also called for a suspension of deportations to Iraq, especially of members of ethnic or religious minority groups in that country.

Their calls were echoed by the UNHCR, which on Tuesday expressed strong concern at reports that Sweden planned to send Iraqis back to Baghdad despite repeated warnings that conditions there are unsafe.

On Tuesday, 70 people were detained after demonstrating outside offices of the Swedish Migration Board near the southwestern city of Gothenburg and amid rising criticism of the deportations.

Swedish immigration authorities ruled in 2007 that “there is no armed conflict in Iraq” and that it was therefore acceptable to return Iraqi citizens to their country. The ruling meant that Iraqis were no longer automatically granted asylum.

Tens of thousands of Iraqis have fled the war in their country to resettle in Sweden, with official statistics showing 117,900 people born in Iraq lived in the Scandinavian country in 2009, up from 49,400 in 2000.

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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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