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Sweden urged to amend 'wife import' rules

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Sweden urged to amend 'wife import' rules
16:23 CEST+02:00
The two-year rule before which married immigrant spouses can qualify for permanent residency and which has been blamed for forcing women into abusive relationships, should be abolished according to a new government inquiry.

According to a survey of social services, police, hospitals and women's refuges the extent of abuse suffered by women who came to the country to marry a Swedish man, is widespread.

Several thousand women have been forced to seek help, according to Eva Eriksson who carried out the inquiry on behalf of the government, pointing that a large number of children are thus affected too.

"The children are rendered invisible today, both in legislation and in how society handles them," she said when presenting the inquiry at the Government Offices in Stockholm.

The two-year rule in practice often becomes a three-year rule due to processing delays meaning that the residential status of many women is entirely reliant on their husband.

In order to the submit an application for permanent residency the relationship furthermore has to remain intact.

According to Eriksson the two-year regulation needs to be removed in the longer term.

She furthermore recommends that the Swedish government tightens checks to prevent errant men from being given the right to bring wives and children into Sweden.

The law currently focuses only on the women and their reasons for coming to Sweden, while the men's motives are not covered by law, she pointed out in an opinion article in the Svenska Dagbladet daily on Friday.

The threat of violence is exacerbated, Eriksson argued, due to the often isolated situation of the women and their lack of Swedish language skills, added to the threat of deportation were they to break off the relationship.

Eriksson argued that the Migration Board (Migrationsverket) should not grant residency if there is a risk of the woman being subjected to violence.

"The focus should be on the first application, not that you have to wait two years to see if you are going to get hit or not," she said.

The Migration Board, in collaboration with the Swedish embassies across the world ensure that the women who come to Sweden "should get all the information you need about the country, in their own language."

Eriksson argued that the woman should furthermore have the right to an interpreter at public institutions in Sweden, hospitals for example. The man should not be allowed to interpret, she argued.

Sweden's equality minister Nyamko Sabuni welcomed the inquiry.

"It gives us a good summary of the problem. Some are related to the expansion of spouse migration since the 1990s, that I did not know before. It makes the problem even more relevant to look at," she said.

She thinks that the two-year rule has a role to play, but believes that the interpretation is out of date.

"A woman who has a temporary residence permit must feel safe and protected by Swedish law. And I do not think that texts covering motivation really provide for sufficient protection."

Eva Eriksson's report will be now be circulated for consultation and will then return to the Government Offices for consideration.

"It should be circulated for consultation as soon as possible," Sabuni said.

The report was furthermore welcomed by The National Organization for Women's Shelters and Young Women's Shelters in Sweden (Roks).

Roks chairperson Angela Beausang served on the commission of experts for the inquiry and said in a statement that she is pleased that the investigator wants to tighten the control of men who want to "bring women and children to Sweden".

"It is pleasing to conclude that the draft measures Roks developed in its report 'Wife imports continue', have largely been addressed in the inquiry," Angela Beausang said.

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