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IMMIGRATION

‘My dad is in famous NY skyscraper pic’: Swede

Members of a family in western Sweden have claimed their migrant worker father is one of the men seated on a steel beam and having lunch high above the skyscrapers in the iconic picture from 1930s New York City.

'My dad is in famous NY skyscraper pic': Swede

“I remember when dad and I went for a walk in the forest in the 1970s and he mentioned this amazing picture that was taken when he was building a skyscraper, and how much he wanted to see it,” Britt-Marie Johansson Duwfa told local newspaper Hallands-Posten.

She thinks her father, John Johansson, who went to the US to work but later came home to western Sweden and married, is seated sixth from the left in the famous image “Lunch atop a Skyscraper”, which has been turned into posters and post cards, adorning knickknacks across the world.

“I really wish I’d tried to find it,” said his retired librarian daughter.

DOCUMENTARY FILM MAKER SAYS SWEDISH CLAIM IS PLAUSIBLE

‘They’re the unknowns’: skyscraper pic expert

Her father smoked, as does the man about to open his lunch box in the image. A slideshow of pictures from Johansson’s life does reveal his resemblance to the man in the picture.

SEE A CLIP FROM THE DOCUMENTARY “MEN AT LUNCH”

When the family discussed the image at a recent family gathering, another relative said he was convinced that the man next to Johansson was another local resident, Albin Svensson.

Hallands-Posten notes that Svensson was slightly cross-eyed, but it is hard to tell if the man seated fifth from the left in the image suffers from the same condition as he is glancing down at his neighbour.

The image was taken by the Rockefeller Centre in midtown Manhattan. Behind the men, the rooftops of New York stretch towards Central Park. The Hudson River is visible in the far distance.

Corbis, which now owns the rights to the picture, still credits the photograph to ‘Anonymous’, although it is widely believed that Charles C. Ebbets took the picture.

There have been many attempts to identify the men, and many more claims to positive identifications than there are workers in the pictures.

Irish filmmaker Seán Ó Cualáin has tried to find out who the men are and chronicled his work in the documentary film “Men at lunch”.

“We have no idea who the two men you identified are,” he told Hallands-Posten in an email.

“Steel workers were often Irish, Native Americans, Scandinavians and Newfoundlanders, so a Swedish claim is credible”.

When contacted by The Local, Johansson Duwfa said the family was no longer granting interviews about the photograph.

TT/The Local/at

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IMMIGRATION

Swedish Iranians complain of ‘drastic drop’ in visas for relatives

Iranians living in Sweden are complaining that relatives are no longer being granted visas to visit, causing pain and heartbreak for one of Sweden's most established immigrant communities.

Swedish Iranians complain of 'drastic drop' in visas for relatives

“This has affected our community very greatly,” Kamran Chabokdavan, spokesperson for the Swedish-Iranian interest group, or Intresseföreningen för Svensk-Iranska frågor, told The Local. “There’s so many people who are feeling depressed or mistreated.”

He had planned to marry his Swedish partner in 2019, but has still not been able to as his parents have not been able to get a visa to come to Sweden, despite visiting, and returning back to Iran several times before. 

“If it was the first time that my parents came here, then it would be more reasonable to say that we cannot be sure that you will go back,” Chabokdavan, who works as a vet in Gothenburg, said. “But if the person has been here ten times before, and suddenly you decide to reject the application, that is a little bit odd.” 

The group now has 2,000 members on Facebook and has contacted the embassy in Tehran, Sweden’s foreign ministry, and MPs in two of Sweden’s political parties, who Chabokdavan said had promised to raise the issue in their parties and to the government.

Chabokdavan told The Local that many Iranians were suffering from the shift to a stricter visa policy. 

“Another member in our group had a sister who was a late-stage cancer patient at the hospital, and her parents couldn’t come here to say goodbye to her.” 

Rozita Akrami, a data scientist at Ericsson, also a group member, has collected data showing that Sweden is now the worst country in the Schengen area for giving visiting visas to Iranians, with only 35 percent of visa applications by friends and relatives of citizens accepted. 

She claims there was a “drastic drop” in the acceptance rate, from 55 per cent in 2018 to 35 percent in 2019, with France accepting 75 percent of visa applications from residents’ relatives that year and Switzerland 79 percent. 

“It seems that the Swedish embassy in Iran has decided to apply stricter criteria, which are really, really unclear,” Chabokdavan said. “It’s really not clear what’s the criteria is here, or why they are rejecting so many documents.” 

In a judgement from last week, the Migration Court ruled that the tougher approach taken by the Swedish embassy in Tehran was justified by a recent rise in the number of Iranians granted visas to Sweden who had then decided to stay and apply for asylum.  

“The embassy further notes that in recent years hundreds of Iranian citizens have applied for residency in Sweden after travelling in on a visa that had been granted,” the court said, justifying its decision to reject an appeal. 

“The embassy can point to the Migration Agency’s reports that a several of these people had had been granted visas previously, even several visas. As a result, visas previously awarded are not a strong indicator of an intention to return.” 

In its judgement, it also noted that sanctions against Iran had resulted in a “severely worsened economy”, with “high unemployment and a weakened currency”, while also pointing to growing “repression of religious minorities” and “imprisonment of political dissidents”. 

In a letter to the embassy in Tehran the group complained that there was no mechanism to replace documents rejected by the Swedish authorities, or to send in missing documents. The group also called for clarity on how applicants’ economic situation was assessed and how relevant it was, and called for the embassy to publish its official statistics from 2015 to 2022. 

“This is about parents who have lived for 60 to 70 years in their homeland and visited Sweden several times while always leaving the Schengen region before their visa has expired,” they wrote. 

Chabokdavan said that in some of the rejection letters, applicants had been told that the worsening economic situation in Iran made Sweden’s authorities worried that visiting relatives would not now return. 

Other rejection letters, he said, had stressed that just because the applicant had visited Sweden and then returned home to Iran many times before, did not mean that they could be relied upon to do so again. 

He said that it was unclear what documents would be enough to prove how well established and tied to Iran the visa applicants are. 

Iranians, who came to Sweden both after the Islamic Revolution in 1979 and during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, are one of Sweden’s most successful migrant groups, with 60 percent getting a university education, and many working within universities, or in high skilled professions.   

“These are people who are really established in Sweden by their job or their studies,” Chabokdavan said. “And their parents usually have a strong, economical base in Iran, otherwise, they couldn’t get this kind of visa from the beginning.”

The Local has contacted the Swedish foreign ministry and the embassy in Tehran for comment. 

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