Migration Board Project Manager Anna Sjöberg said the agency was well aware that the grapevine often provided information on the ground, but that the potential for misinformation was problematic.
“Migrants talk to other migrants, it is the absolutely most frequent way of communication, which means that we as a state agency must question how correct the information is once it reaches the recipient,” Sjöberg told The Local.
The agency launched an official report New Route (Ny väg) into the matter on Thursday.
Its findings are based in part on interviews with some 45 Iraqis. The project team flew to Erbil in northern Iraq to speak with agencies and civil society there for input. Many of the people interviewed were unaware of the 2008 revision to labour migration, while in some cases interviewees thought it was a bilateral agreement rather than national legislation.
“Many didn’t understand that it opened the door to anyone with a job,” Sjöberg said, adding that many believed there were prerequisites about specific competences, or exclusive lists of professions facing labour shortages in Sweden to which migrants cold apply.
“It is difficult to communicate that this has nothing to do with quotas, specific professions, or industries in need of certain type of employees.”
A person who has applied for but is not granted asylum in Sweden also has the right to apply for a work visa, as long as there is a job on offer and the papers are filed within two weeks.
One year after the 2008 reform by the centre-right coalition government, 1,224 asylum seekers changed tracks to seek work visas. That number has decreased since then, reaching 684 asylum-to-work-visa swaps in 2012.
Sjöberg said her team was aware that information given by the Migration Board staff, including some case workers, was not always consistent.
“The need for us to improve has gotten empirical legs to stand on with our new report,” she said about the risk of receiving contradictory information.
The board is now pushing ahead with the help of the Swedish Institute, the equivalent to the British Council or Alliance Francaise, and of the Swedish Work Environment Authority (Arbetsmiljöverket) to make sure information about the right to apply for a work visa will be readily available at Swedish embassies and consulates word-wide.
The tie-up with the latter is partly based on making sure no would-be migrants fall short in knowledge about procedures, and about their rights as employees.
“It is very positive if we can explain how it works, and how much it should cost to apply for a work visa,” Sjöberg added.
“Our project is not meant to steer people’s course, rather to give people the ability to make decisions and steer it themselves.”