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AFGHANISTAN

How Samir got a job teaching Swedish – after two years in Sweden

Samir Ahmad fled Afghanistan after getting threats from the Taliban. Skip forward two years and he has just landed a job teaching Swedish — on the same day his residence permit came through.

How Samir got a job teaching Swedish - after two years in Sweden
Samir Ahmad was recently offered a job as an assistant teacher. Photo: Private
The 25-year-old business graduate speaks five languages and previously worked as a financial manager for the Afghan government, helping international donors direct resources where they were most needed for the country's development.  

What was your work like, and why did the Taliban target you? 

We had a project that was funded by the US and a few other international donors. I was in contact with high-level officials and we were doing important development work. 

Unfortunately the Taliban, who don’t want to see Afghanistan develop, knew about me and started to send me warnings and threats.  What made it really dangerous was that I was living in an area inhabited by many Taliban members.  

Every time I remember my life back home it hurts. I was working hard and hoping to see my country develop. 

Tell us about your journey to Sweden. 

I fled from Afghanistan to Pakistan in June 2014. After less than a week I managed to fly to Sweden through Dubai — with the help of a smuggler, of course, who took a lot of money. When I arrived in Sweden I applied for asylum.  

It was hard to flee from Afghanistan to Pakistan, especially as I had no documents. I just left with no documents at all. It was stressful. I was scared and had no hope for the future.

I didn’t know if I’d be safe in Pakistan, because the Taliban exists there as well, and you never know who is Taliban and who’s not. They dress like everyone else. Also, I was in Pakistan illegally but didn’t think I had a choice. 

I wasn’t sure I’d find a smuggler, but a friend put me in touch with someone who promised me safe passage to Europe. The smuggler chose my destination, not me. 

Throughout the entire journey I didn’t know what country I was going to end up in. When we arrived at Stockholm’s Arlanda Airport the smuggler took away our false documents and told us to find our own way. 

What have been the best and worst things about starting a new life in Sweden?

The worst thing is thinking back on my previous life in Afghanistan. Everything I’d built up over 24 years just vanished in a few days. Not to mention my family and all the great memories I have of them. 

It’s not that easy to build a good life in Afghanistan, but I had my own apartment, car, work and had almost everything I wanted. And so when I was moved to the asylum centre here in Sweden, I felt very bad. I was put in a room with five others, and the hygiene conditions weren’t that good. For example, the toilet was mostly grimy and really stank. 

But the warm welcome and kindness from the migration agency’s staff made up for all of that — it gives one hope. 

What are you doing now, and how did it come about?

I started studying Swedish on my own. Then I got the chance to further improve my Swedish with Klondyk, a project for refugees run by ABF here in Boden in northern Sweden. I later came into contact with the Afghan association in Boden and started to participate in different voluntary activities. 

In September 2014 I got an internship as an administrator and interpreter with a company that helps refugees integrate. They wanted to offer me a job but then the government pulled the plug on the scheme [Etableringslots] that was partly funding them. 

I volunteered as a seller at Pingstkyrkan Secondhand, a chef at Ria Oasen-Boden, an interpreter at BodenFlyktinghjälp [refugee assistance], and a part-time Swedish assistant at ABF Boden. 

This March I started my internship as a Swedish language assistant teacher at Studieförbundet Vuxenskolan – and a month later I was offered a job. It’s due to start after the summer holidays. 

We have more than 300 students from 23 countries, and I really enjoy helping them, especially when I see the students starting to speak or write in Swedish

What advice do you have for others in your situation?

Use every second of your time learning Swedish, establish yourself in Swedish society and help each other with everyday activities. Finally, and most importantly, respect Sweden’s laws.

Undereducated refugees need to work harder to find their own ways in the society. And I think we, the educated, need to help them doing so. Now I speak Swedish and I feel very well assimilated into the society, I think I am an example of an integrated newcomer. 

What are your future plans? 

I want to complete my education and get a PhD. I’d like to become a university lecturer and assist in the development of Swedish society. 

Photo: Private

AFGHANISTAN

Swedish student to face trial after anti-deportation protest that stopped flight

The Swedish student who livestreamed her onboard protest against the deportation of an Afghan asylum seeker will go on trial on Monday.

Swedish student to face trial after anti-deportation protest that stopped flight
Elin Ersson. File photo: Björn Larsson Rosvall/TT

Elin Ersson will appear at Gothenburg District Court, charged with violating Sweden’s Aviation Act.

Ersson protested in July last year against the Swedish government's policy of deporting some rejected asylum seekers to Afghanistan by boarding an Istanbul-bound flight that carried an Afghan man who was to be returned home after being denied asylum.

With a ticket for the flight that was purchased by the activist group 'Sittstrejken i Göteborg', the activist boarded the aircraft and then refused to sit down until the Afghan man was let off. Flights are not allowed to take off until all passengers are safely in their seats.

Ersson livestreamed her protest on Facebook, where it was viewed over five million times.

Eventually, Ersson was told that the man would be let off the plane and she was also removed by airport security.

According to the prosecutor in the trial, which will take place Monday, Ersson acknowledges her actions in the incident but said her objections were based on her morals and argues that she did not act illegally as the plane was not in the air at the time of her protest.

“I believe that she is guilty of a crime which I can prove and which she will not admit. The court will therefore determine this,” prosecutor James von Reis told TT when charges were brought against the student.

In an interview with the news agency in July last year, Ersson was asked how she sees the view that her actions can be considered criminal.

“The key issue for me is that the man who was to be deported is human and deserves to live. In Sweden we do not have the death penalty, but deportation to a country which is at war can mean death,” she said.

The trial is expected to be completed within one day and Ersson’s defence has sent supplementary evidence to the court.

That consists of a legal statement by Dennis Martinsson, a lawyer in criminal law at Stockholm University. In the 13-page statement, Martinsson argues that the Aviation Act is phrased in a way which makes it questionable whether it is applicable to what Ersson did.

According to the legal expert, the relevant paragraph only applies to requests made by the aircraft’s commanding officer. Investigation of the incident found that Ersson was instructed to take her seat by “cabin crew on board”.

Further, the law states that criminal liability applies to passengers who do not comply with instructions “during a flight”, a description which Martinsson argues cannot be applied to an aircraft on the ground waiting to depart.

There is no precedent in interpretation of the law, he also writes according to TT’s summary.

The extent to which those arguments will affect the outcome of Monday’s case remains to be seen.

The penalty for violation of the Aviation Act is a fine or imprisonment for a maximum of six months.

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