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'Undocumented migrants are not the problem'

22 Feb 2013, 13:11

Published: 22 Feb 2013 13:11 GMT+01:00

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Swedish police are using ever more resources in the hunt for undocumented immigrants. But as it is illegal to stop a person without reasonable grounds for suspicion, the police are making up reasons.

The end result is racial profiling, which is undignified for any country that respects the rule of law.

The project entitled Reva, which stands for Rättssäkert och effektivt verkställighetsarbete ('Legal and effective execution of policy'), uses rewritten methods to find and deport people who are in Sweden without permission.

Reva exemplifies how a state authority can come up with new methods to reach its goals without technically violating the letter of the law.

The police have raided the street market on Möllevångstorget square in Malmö alongside officials from the Tax Authority (Skatteverket), for example, or stopped people cycling through the city for traffic violations – but in actual fact, the aim has been to check people’s identification documents.

There are cases of the police breaking up weddings with pepper spray to get at undocumented immigrants. They have arrested teenagers out on leave from psychiatric care, which they were receiving in the first place because they were so terrified of being deported that it affected their mental health.

Reva is a success in as far as it has done what it set out to do.

Deportations are up by 25 percent. The pilot project was followed by a national rollout – and all this is taking place with the EU’s support.

Reva gets funding from the European Return Fund, which the union set up within the €676-million ($890 million) budget programme “Solidarity and Management of Migration Flows”.

Since January, Reva has been tried out in Stockholm, which has become all the more obvious these last few weeks for those of us who live here. Instead of targeting cyclists, the police are targeting commuters in the city’s public transit system.

Citizens have reacted by plotting their whereabouts – either on the Facebook page Reva Spotter but also on Twitter.

The main tactic is to target people who are jumping the turnstiles without paying for a ticket, which gives the police the opportunity to check people’s ID documents and residency permits.

Of course, it would be much easier for the police to simply stop anyone who looked like they weren’t European – but that is not allowed.

”We have to have a reason to check ID documents and residency permits,” a Stockholm police officer told our newspaper Arbetaren in December.

Well, yes, of course they do, because what would we end up with if they didn’t need a reason?

We’d end up with a police state.

The fact is – the police are engaging in a type of racial profiling, even though they use other qualifiers like jumping the turnstiles in Stockholm or cycling in Malmö with a broken headlight to stop people.

What we have on our hands is a superb example of creative police work – how to figure out new methods to reach a specific goal without technically going against the letter of the law.

Swedish police officers do not, like their British colleagues do, have the right to stop and search anyone they like without having any suspicion of crime.

So Swedish police have to make up reasons.

That this is taking place in the context of a project that claims to respect the law is absurd. Furthermore, to pump resources into a crime as petty as jumping the turnstiles is an abuse of police powers, which in the long run risks damaging the respect that people feel for democracy.

It does not respect the law.

Police work is all about prioritizing. A person with power has decided that hunting down undocumented immigrants should be top priority right now. As a Swedish citizen I have to ask – in what way does the presence of undocumented immigrants in the country pose a problem for me?

For the undocumented immigrant, however, there are big problems in living and working in Sweden without a permit.

Story continues below…

Apart from the constant fear of arrest and deportation, they have to navigate many things that the rest of us take for granted – healthcare and education, for example.

Simple things like buying a train ticket – ironically, this also applies to a one-way ticket on the Stockholm metro – cannot be done today without possessing a personal identification number (personnummer).

Undocumented immigrants work under the table for pitiful salaries and without any employment security. If they complain, the employer can easily have them kicked out of the country.

If we need to prioritize, why aren’t we targeting the employers who let undocumented immigrants slave away in restaurant kitchens or work for nothing as cleaners?

Why aren't we targeting the people in Sweden who make money off undocumented immigrants shovelling snow off the rooftops wearing nothing on their feet but trainers?

Why aren't we targeting the people in Sweden who rope in undocumented immigrants to demolish houses riddled with asbestos without offering them proper protective gear?

Many work for subcontractors. It is the big Swedish companies who don’t keep an eye on their subcontractors who carry much of the responsibility for this abuse.

The undocumented migrants are not the problem. The companies that exploit them are.

Undocumented workers are also workers, but with worse working conditions, lower salaries and less security than anyone else in our country.

That we let this happen and that we through our parliamentary system have told the police to hunt them down like animals is not just a waste of resources but deeply shameful.

Daniel Wiklander is editor-in-chief of the weekly newspaper Arbetaren, published by the Syndicalist Union (SAC) since 1922.

Follow Daniel on Twitter here

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Your comments about this article

13:35 February 22, 2013 by 007
"Simple things like buying a train ticket - ironically, this also applies to a one-way ticket on the Stockholm metro - cannot be done today without possessing a personal identification number (personnummer)."

13:51 February 22, 2013 by matressmonkey
Every day I take the Pendeltag from TC to Sollentuna during non rush hours and every day, in both directions there are beggars with the pictures or just panhandling and getting more aggressive all the time. There was one this morning who put a 5 second stare down on some old lady. SO DONT TELL ME THESE GUYS ARE NOT A PROBLEM. And they're all part of exploitative rackets. I live on Söder and just about every subway there now has a beggar at most times. Also part of the same rackets. Is this good? Is this healthy? Is this all part of some mastermind's immigration-driven nirvana? Or is it a result of an unenforced and out of control immigration policy. I can't imagine anyone has a problem targeting employers so that's fine too. But the idea that illegals who break the law should be spared becaue they're illegal is counter to the foundation of this law based society.
13:52 February 22, 2013 by calebian22
Target both the employers and the undocumented workers. There is no reason for this to be an either or scenario.
14:00 February 22, 2013 by zebi

I agree with Daniel´s statement that swedish employers who get benefit from the undocumented workers should be responsible rather than workers. I think this is the one aspect of the story. In sweden, we know many people have become citizens by using unfair means such as with sambo (paying money to girls); paying money to employers to get work permits (i.e recent example is McDonalds who sold work permits to people); many got assylum and finally got citizenship. There are thousands of illegal cases.

If police has to track down undocumented workers then first they have to trace out those who got citizenship through frauds etc and cancel them.

On the other hand, swedish government wants the illegal people´s children into


i can suggest one thing. Swedish government should stop giving social benefits to its citizens. In this way everybody will rely on his own resources swedish government does not need to spend resources own the illegal workers. Swedish government just to scrutinize that if the workers are paying traxes or not.

I have many things to say but I would like to welcome posters to contribute your own ideas too.


14:10 February 22, 2013 by Beavis
@matressmonkey half of these beggers are Swedish.the guys your talking about do the same route everyday, on at Sollentune off at Karlberg and back putting the photos down. Quite easy for the police to get them, the police stations just a minutes walk from Sollentuna station and its all on cc tv every day.
14:18 February 22, 2013 by zebi

tracking down? why just undocomented workers? I think there are many other cases that needed to be tracked down.

there are many illegal cases that have become legal. For example: Many people got citizenship by paying money to girls and now they are legal. should not track them down?

employers got money from workers and gave them work permits. McDonalds sold many permits to workers. Employers uses innocent workers as human shield and get benefits from them. should not employers be tracked down?

Based on false dcumentation, assylum seekers became citizens. Should these people be tracked down?

Government authorities first track down those who are legal by using unfair means. Their citizenship should be cancelled.

why undocumented workers are being hunt up?

there is only one reason and the reason is that they are not paying taxes and if they are paying but they are minimum. i think the labour law should be amended. For example: workers should be given permission to work with how many employers they want to work. The only thing should be if they are paying the required taxes or not. The current system bounds workers to work 4 yrs with one employer. Every employer does not have work for its force for 4 years that is why employers misuse the workers.

one more thing is that swdish government should stop paying social benefits and everyone should rely on his own resources. in this way there is no burden on the government.

on the other hand swedish government want the children of illegal people to attend schools which is totally an opposite story.


15:23 February 22, 2013 by Svensksmith
If a person breaks the law, they are a criminal. Right? And it's the job of the police to track down criminals. Right?
15:46 February 22, 2013 by Eric1
This man doesn't know what he's talking about. His leftist ideology is so embedded he left reason, logic, and common sense out of this article. A society that will not protect itself is doomed.

Racial profiling is excepted police work in every non-Caucasian country, why not Caucasian societies? The reason is to destroy Caucasian societies. The truth isn't politically correct.
16:01 February 22, 2013 by RobinHood
Mr Wilander piously lectures us about the rule of law, but then tells us that certain criminals who jump the turnstiles of Stockholm's metro should not be arrested and ID'd by the police.

We are all bound by the law to buy our metro tickets, old, young, black, white, Swedish, non-Swedish, legal or illegal. That is the rule of law. Why should illegal immigrants be exempt from the rule of law?

And why should the police not enforce the rule of law and arrest those who don't but a ticket?

Clumsy thinking Mr Wilander.
20:59 February 22, 2013 by johan rebel
I need a personnummer to buy a train ticket? Was this guy high on drugs when he wrote the article?
21:12 February 22, 2013 by bandeco
This is a primitive method of curbing illegal immigration! I'm for a free world where anybody is free to reside wherever the choose to for socio-economic and safety. Thats part of human existence. Animals,birds do it. Even swedes do it and are still doing it. most of these people want to work, pay taxes and improve their living condition. If they are law abiding, work and contribute, i see no problem to prevent them. Sweden is not located in jupiter but earth.
11:08 February 23, 2013 by Westport
When an editor-in-chief can't ensure that his facts are correct it leaves me to wonder about his conclusions:

"Swedish police officers do not, like their British colleagues do, have the right to stop and search anyone they like without having any suspicion of crime."

As a former British police officer I can tell you that this is categorically untrue. Following the Brixton Riot of 1981, the Scarman Report highlighted indiscriminate use of "stop and search" aimed at racial minorities as one of the catalysts for the riots. This resulted in the 1984 Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) which governs stop and search procedures. An officer must have grounds for conducting a search, and must explain those grounds to the member of the public being searched - and perhaps later to a court. An officer may not search members of the public indiscriminately, without suspicion of an offence.

Don't think I'll become a regular reader of Arbetaren any time soon!
13:14 February 23, 2013 by Kevin Harris
@ The Local

This piece has way too many factual errors. Get it down.
13:51 February 24, 2013 by Reason and Realism
@ Daniel Wiklander

The complete falsehood in your reporting that a personal number is required to buy even a one way ticket is poor journalism, and incorrectly implies that illegal immigrants have no choice when they jump turnstyles.

What you failed to mention or which you may not know yourself is that the stopping subway turnstile jumpers by police was the key strategy behind the reduction of violent crime in New York city, because rapists, murderers, and armed robbers are also (not surprisingly) turnstile jumpers.

We can all agree that working conditions should be safe for temporary workers in Sweden, and that some effort is required to police that, but to argue that efforts to deport illegal immigrants is 'deeply shameful' is to suggest that Sweden (and all other nations) should have no sovereign right to determine its own immigration and asylum policy.
21:16 February 24, 2013 by Dagem Hailemariam
This is where the true logic escapes me...if I were an illegal immigrant and I knew that the police were checking for tickets and that was their way of fishing for illegal immigrants, wouldn't buying a ticket be what I would do to avoid all the hassle? And shouldn't the police, in knowing how easy it would be to avoid their great REVA strategy, find a better way? They should for real, otherwise people might start thinking how mickey mouse the swedish way of thinking is?

(PS: Most of the people commenting on this post are coming off, in my opinion, as very limited in their way of thinking!)
00:00 February 25, 2013 by Chuck_Norris
I am a foreigner and I can't wait to leave Sweden. People are extremely cold and there is widespread institutionalized racism. I can't wait to finish my studies to move.

But one thing.. Your article lacks facts. There is too many presumptions. You are complaining that police make up reasons to ID people. So what? Do you want them to simply stop so not to make illegals feel they are breaking the law?

That is the issue with illegals be it a muslim here in Sweden or a Mexican in the USA, he/she has to find ways to play the system. Your complain is weak, superfluos and lacks reason. You sound like one of those Swede kids who is trying to rebel but the system doesn't give a reason to rebel.

Conclusion: You make a negative image of your political side/association through this weak source article.

Yours truly,

A foreigner.
03:50 February 25, 2013 by nathan45
This article is just more liberal crap from The Local. Everyone knows the many problems that are associated with illeagle immigration and to deny them in the name of the left wing ideology is ignorant and foolish.
13:55 February 25, 2013 by Kronaboy

I'm sorry to hear you have had a taste of what I have had to put up with all my life, hopefully when you return to USA you will look upon the Mexicans with a little more sympathy. The issue isn't that the police are checking people; the issue is they are randomly fishing based on preconceived prejudices rather than targeting groups or areas with hard intelligence, pretty much Swedish version of SUS.
23:20 February 25, 2013 by AfroSwede
Sweden claimed to be one of the countries in the world that has low racism but what amazes me the most is that when ever you see heated debate and comments in the Local or any other media outlets is about immigration and immigrants. Now tell me if this is not a racist society what is't?
12:59 February 26, 2013 by prince T
@afro. Sweden is still better than other places. What we have in sweden is indirect racism. Dicrimination is still aproblem here.

However most of the racists on this site are jobless, insignificant and low life. Their view does not agree with that of a hard working swede.

When u read comments dat are practically impossible in a modern world except in hitler's land. You will understand where i am coming from. When someone call 1 out of 10 a success u will get my point.

They live off benefits and tink it is immigrants that the problem with economy of sweden. Everything wrong in d system is immigrants fault.
17:04 February 26, 2013 by The Poetician
@ Chuck-Norris

"That is the issue with illegals be it a muslim here in Sweden or a Mexican in the USA"

Mexicans and other Latinos in the states do jobs that most of you lazy fat ass yanks won't do!! Plus Mexicans can pride themselves to be truly and genuinely latin Americans not like the hybrid incests that most yanks are!!
22:50 February 26, 2013 by Navras
Sweden should just give us all citizenship without insurance support for next 5 years!

we skilled immigrants can contribute more ! Alas Sweden only needs asylum seekers!

08:51 February 28, 2013 by robban70226
Hunting down undocumented immigrants ??? What a bull statement,

Every country have the right to determine who is in his country ilegalyGet a life!!
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