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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Attack on migration minister at refugee home

UPDATED: Sweden's Minister for Justice and Migration, Morgan Johansson has been attacked with a fire extinguisher after visiting a housing project for refugees in southern Sweden, but is not thought to have been injured.

Attack on migration minister at refugee home
Sweden's Minister for Justice and Migration, Morgan Johansson. Photo: TT
Morgan Johansson was leaving the building when a man grabbed a fire extinguisher and sprayed foam over the minister, according to reports in regional newspaper Kristianstadsbladet.
According to the paper, the Social Democrat politician barely had time to react before a guard from Sweden's Security Service (Säpo) pulled the man to the ground.
The minister had spent the day visiting various locations around Kristianstad, a city in Skåne in southern Sweden.
The refugee accommodation he was attacked at is on the former site of Broby Hospital, a healthcare centre which closed down several years ago.

Sweden became the first European country in 2013 to grant automatic residency to Syrian refugees and has since seen asylum requests rise to record levels, which are still expected to reach about 90,000 in 2015.

Previously no more than 200 asylum seekers were permitted to stay in one centre. But under the new rules, the Migration Board can sign a basic contract for 350 places, including two supplementary agreements of 150 places each after the first ones have been filled.

According to the Swedish Migration Board's latest prognosis, 15,000 more asylum places will need to be created in the coming year.

Last week a survey by pollsters Ipsos commissioned by Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter suggested that more than 60 percent of Swedes believe that immigration is good for the country, but just ten percent agree that integration efforts are working well.

Morgan Johansson told local news network P4 Kristianstad that he had been "taken by surprise", but added that he had not been injured.

"But you shouldn't treat these things too lightly either. You can't just say 'move on', because of course it's serious," he said.

The attack on the politician took place as Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Löfven reiterated his commitment to helping refugees, but called on other EU nations to share the burden.

"We need to provide security for the refugees who risk facing death just a few mile off the coast of Europe, and get more of the EU member states to take responsibility for refugee protection," he said in a speech at a school in Gothenburg.

"Germany and Sweden take the greatest responsibility. More countries need to help take care of refugees," he added.