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‘Some Europeans can’t tell the difference between refugees and migrants’

With Sweden taking in so many refugees in recent years, economic migrants have dropped down the list of priorities and are often ignored, business administrator Stuti Singh tells The Local Voices.

'Some Europeans can't tell the difference between refugees and migrants'

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.” 

READ ALSO: Beyond berry pickers and coders: Sweden's overlooked migrant workers

 

IMMIGRATION

Swedish employer ‘tore up my application’ at job fair

A representative for a major Swedish company is accused of having ripped up an asylum seeker's job application in front of his face after he asked her to speak Swedish more slowly.

Swedish employer 'tore up my application' at job fair
Abdullah Al-Moadhen while studying in Donetsk, Ukraine. Photo:Private
Abdullah Al-Moadhen, who qualified as a doctor in Ukraine shortly before coming to Sweden in 2015, was visiting the Orkla Foods stall at a job fair in October, hoping he could adapt his medical training to food safety, when the company's representative lost patience with him and seized his application form. 
 
“She tore it up and threw it on the ground,” he told the Local. “I felt sad and disappointed and depressed. I don't know why she treated me like this. I've spoken to a lot of companies and given my CV to them, and they've all treated me perfectly well, except for Orkla.” 
 
Al-Moadhen has now made a formal complaint to Sweden's Discrimination Ombudsman (DO) on the advice of the Swedish state employment service. 
 
According to Al-Moadhen, the altercation began when he asked the company's representative to help explain a section on their application form, and she refused. 
 
“She said 'this is an elementary question, why are you asking me?'” Al-Moadhen said. 
 
She then began to speak Swedish so rapidly that Al-Moadhen, who has taught himself Swedish as he is not eligible for free government-funded tuition, could not follow her. 
 
“I said in Swedish, 'OK, can you speak Swedish slowly? I don't understand if you speak quickly'. And then she said, “In our factory, we don't need people who need Swedish spoken slowly.”
 
Al-Moadhen felt this was rude and told her so. “I said, 'look, if you say that people will get disappointed'.  And then she ripped up my application paper and threw it on the floor.”  
 
After this the representative told him to leave the job fair, but he refused telling her that she had no right to ask that as it was a public place. 
 
Cecilia Franck, Orkla's head of press, said the company was trying to better understand what took place before responding to DO. 
 
“No one should experience discrimination in contact with us,” she said. “As soon as we got the information from DO about how this person experienced the situation, we started an internal investigation to get the whole picture of what really happened.” 
 
“Hearing his version makes us concerned, but we need to get the whole picture before we can respond to DO. It wouldn't be fair otherwise.” 
 
Al-Moadhen is currently trying to pass the language and proficiency tests needed to start practising medicine in Sweden, but is having to study medical terminology alone, as Eslöv municipality where he lives has told him that it lacks the resources to provide specialist medical language training. 
 
He took a medical proficiency test in September, but failed. 
 
“Everything we studied for six years, you need to study again in the Swedish language. I have to read all my diploma, and all my six years, I have to study in Swedish.”
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