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ASSANGE EXTRADITION FIGHT

IMMIGRATION

Ecuador recalls envoy to discuss Assange

Ecuador on Friday recalled its ambassador to Britain to discuss the political asylum application filed by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange this week.

“We are calling our ambassador back for consultations because this is a very serious matter,” President Rafael Correa said.

Assange, an Australian national, sought refuge in the Ecuadoran embassy on Tuesday and asked Quito to give him asylum as he seeks to avoid extradition to

Sweden on allegations of rape, fearing Stockholm will turn him over to the United States.

WikiLeaks enraged Washington by releasing a flood of classified US information about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as more than 250,000 classified US diplomatic cables that embarrassed a slew of governments.

“We are going to proceed cautiously, responsibly and seriously in this case, without bowing to absolutely any pressure,” Correa said.

Ecuador’s ambassador Ana Alban met with British authorities on Wednesday, and Correa said they had had a “very courteous communication” on London’s “point of view.”

“We will take it into account, but Ecuador will make the final decision” on whether to grant Assange’s request, he added.

“He says his life is in danger if he is extradited to the United States where they have the death penalty for political crimes,” Correa said. “He says this is political persecution and that the charges against him are a hoax.”

Assange, a former computer hacker, told Australia’s ABC radio Friday of his fears that he would end up in the hands of the United States, which he says wants to try him for divulging US secrets.

But he conceded there was no current US indictment against him.

“Of course not, at the moment the matter is before the grand jury,” he told ABC. “Until it comes out of the grand jury there will not be such evidence

afforded.”

Correa, who has often been at odds with Washington, appeared to agree with Assange that the charges of rape and sexual assault he faces in Sweden had little substance.

“They are pretty dubious, to say the least,” he said, arguing that “no-one was violated, assaulted against their will, or abused.”

“This was a consensual relationship, but in Sweden it is considered rape if proper protection is not used, and you don’t say that you are not using protection. But otherwise this was a consenting relationship with two women.”

Correa stressed however that his comments did not prejudge what Ecuador’s decision would be on Assange’s request for asylum.

“We will make a decision at the right moment, and it will be a sovereign decision. Ecuador is not for sale, we won’t negotiate away our rights to grant asylum or not to any of the citizens of the world.”

Assange has said he chose Ecuador’s embassy instead of that of his home country’s because he felt Canberra had done nothing to protect him, a charge the government has denied.

“There are serious issues here, and they are being hidden by the slimy rhetoric coming out of the US ambassador to Australia, via (Australian Prime Minister Julia) Gillard… and that needs to stop,” said Assange.

Assange will remain inside the embassy while Ecuador considers his request, a process that could take “hours or days,” a spokesman for the whistleblower website said Thursday.

Britain’s Supreme Court last week threw out Assange’s application to reopen his appeal against extradition to Sweden after a marathon legal battle.

He has until June 28th to lodge an appeal at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, after which the extradition process can begin.

Assange is on £200,000 ($315,000) bail, put up by celebrity supporters including filmmaker Ken Loach and Jemima Khan, the former wife of Pakistan cricket captain turned politician Imran Khan.

The asylum bid is the most dramatic twist yet in a case dating back to December 2010, when Assange was first detained in London on a European arrest warrant.

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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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