Assange is the UK’s problem: lawyer

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is prepared to spend another five years inside the Ecuadorean embassy in London, but one Swedish lawyer said on Tuesday that the decision would not affect the Swedish case.

Assange is the UK's problem: lawyer

Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said on Monday his country would continue to provide political asylum to Assange, who walked into the embassy one year ago in a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden where he is wanted for questioning over rape and sexual assault allegations.

The news that Assange plans to remain holed up for another five years makes no difference from a Swedish perspective, explained Mårten Schultz, professor in civil law at Stockholm University.

“This does not affect the Swedish case whatsoever,” he told The Local.

“It is a matter for Ecuador and the UK to resolve and the British government is not likely to go against the extradition ruling from the Supreme Court or the European agreement.”

“According to the ruling, Assange should be extradited and there is no room now to argue that there is something wrong with the Swedish case. Now it is a question of enforcing the ruling.”

The most serious crime Assange is accused of is rape, where the statute of limitations runs out in August 2020.

For the other crimes – unlawful threat and sexual harassment – the statute of limitations runs out in August 2015, meaning that if Assange were to stay holed up in the embassy for long enough, he could eventually walk free.

A spokesman for the Swedish Prosecution Authority (Åklagarmyndigheten) told The Local that: “As long as Julian Assange is on British ground this remains an issue for Great Britain to resolve”.

He added: “Marianne Ny, the director of public prosecution, will not comment on the matter until Assange is in Sweden.”

However, the British Foreign Office said “no substantive progress” had been made in talks between Patino and British Foreign Minister William Hague.

Instead, the two ministers decided to appoint a working group made up of British and Ecuadorean legal experts to resolve the impasse.

At a press conference in London, Patino said that Assange’s situation was “totally unjust” and that both his government and Assange himself were prepared for a long wait.

He said the WikiLeaks founder had told him he was fit enough to spend another five years inside the tiny embassy.

“I was able to say face to face to him, for the first time, that the government of Ecuador remains firmly committed to protecting his human rights and that we continue to seek cast-iron assurances to avoid any onward extradition to a third state,” Patino said after meeting Assange.

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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.