In September 2014 Stuti Singh and her daughter moved to Stockholm after her husband had started working in his new job in the Swedish capital.
Their arrival coincided with a refugee crisis that gathered force over the course of the following year before Sweden tightened border checks to stem the flow of refugees coming into the country.
But little effort was made in the media debate to understand that economic migrants were also struggling to settle in Sweden, claims the 31-year-old India native.
So what’s the difference between refugees and migrants? The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR stresses that refugees leave their countries because their lives are at risk, whereas migrants choose to move to make a better life for themselves but are not in mortal danger.
But this doesn’t mean migrants should be left to fend for themselves, Singh says.
“I have no bitterness in my heart against refugees at all, and I understand how much these people fleeing war may suffer. But it’s sad to find yourself as a migrant being put in a corner and sidelined.”
In her plea for more resources to be committed to migrants, Singh insists she doesn’t want to sound cynical or indifferent to the hardships endured by refugees.
“But most discussions I hear are about initiatives, activities and integration programmes aimed at refugees. This is almost 100 percent the focus. But what about migrants? They have concerns, interests and needs too,” she says.
With little discussion on the differences, many people view newcomers as being almost synonymous with refugees, she says.
“Some Europeans can’t even tell the difference between refugees and migrants. They put both in one box and bombard them with indiscriminate prejudices.”
If more migrant voices are heard, she argues, Swedish employers will be more likely to consider dipping into the pool of resources they offer.
“I think with more openness and acceptance things will change. Just give migrants a chance to display their skills and then you can judge them.”
“I myself have a big experience in administration, and would love to employ my knowledge in Sweden. My competence could be an addition to this country, and I want to make people aware of it,” she says, and concludes with a message to Swedes:
“We want to help you. We want to be your partners and friends, and I would be very happy to pay taxes.”