Sweden offers ‘haven’ for persecuted writers

The Swedish Migration Board (Migrationsverket) has announced new rules intended to make it easier for exiled authors who are persecuted in their home countries to reside in so-called "safe havens" in Sweden.

“Exiled authors are important to safeguard freedom of speech and we want to help in any way we can to facilitate the system,” said Jonas Lindgren at the Migration Board, in a statement.

So far, exiled authors have been issued temporary visitors’ residency permits valid for a year or two. When these lapsed, they have been forced to leave the country unless they have applied for asylum in Sweden.

But with the new rules, the Migration Board will issue them with a temporary residence permit as professionals, making it possible for them to stay on when the visitor permit runs out, provided they can prove they have means to support tehmselves.

If the author can then show that he or she can earn a living in Sweden, whether through their writing or otherwise, the Migration Board may grant them a residence permit.

The scheme is welcomed at the Swedish Arts Council (Kulturrådet), the agency responsible for working with exiled authors.

“This is a step in the right direction – to make possible a continued stay in Sweden for those that can’t return to their countries of origin after two years and that exiled authors are seen as an asset enriching Swedish culture,” said Kennet Johansson, director general of the council.

Politicians are also welcoming the move by the Migration Board.

“It is positive to see that the Migration Board have found a way to give persecuted writers a safe haven in Sweden within the current legislation. But Swedish migration law must be changed so that writers that need sanctuary will be guaranteed either residence permit or asylum,” said Ulf Nilsson, spokesperson on migration for the Liberal Party, in a statement. .

Four Swedish municipalities today provide sanctuary for exiled writers and poets, providing them with the financial means to develop their art in safety from persecution for at least a year. These are Stockholm, Uppsala, Gothenburg and Malmö.

According to the Arts Council, there are currently four exiled authors who have sought sanctuary in Sweden but with the new rules this number is likely to increase in the near future.

“That’s what we’re hoping anyway, and I know that there are discussions going on in several other municipalities to accept exiled authors, ” said Helen Sigeland of the Arts Council to The Local.

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