Lena Matthijs, police chief in Älvsborg, western Sweden, published the lengthy post on July 11th after she had to tell a teenager from Ethiopia that she was to be deported to her homeland after four years living in the Nordic nation.
“I feel great shame. Shame for belonging to the state establishment that decided to deport a 17-year-old girl to Ethiopia after four years in Sweden because her homeland is judged not to be sufficiently dangerous or miserable. I gave her the decision in my role as her legal guardian. All doors are now closed. She will be out of the country before the school term starts in the autumn,” her post begins.
“She has finished her first year of upper secondary school and speaks fluent Swedish. She asked me what will happen to her grades? What will happen with her studies? No one will take her in in her old homeland. The summer job she’s doing here in Sweden will be her only source of funds. Now she has to fend for herself, as best as possible,” it continues.
Matthijs goes on to say that she questioned whether it was right to speak about the case and similar ones in her position as a chief of police, but seeing the girl crying made it impossible to keep quiet.
“We deport kids who have integrated into Swedish society at the same time as we take in people who come back from fighting in Syria who have no other plan than to destroy our safety. We also fail to enforce the deportation of major criminals, who instead are allowed to stay because their lives are at risk if they’re sent back. The lives of young people are also in danger. No one can guarantee their safety after they land in Addis Ababa, Mogadishu or Kabul,” the Swede elaborates.
The cost is not only emotional, according to the police chief, but also financial if the money spent on the asylum process including legal fees, education and housing are taken into account.
As a solution she suggests speeding up the processing time for asylum requests, in particular when a child is involved, and that if a final decision cannot be made within two years the child should be given a permanent residence permit, provided they have no criminal history. At the same time, the enforcement of deportation orders for criminals should be stricter, she adds.
“The girl is well integrated, has lived at a Swedish family home, reads a lot of books in Swedish, has Swedish friends, a huge amount of dreams for her life and wants to study at any cost. The Swedish Migration Agency has judged that she does not have grounds for asylum. She has no adult relatives who can take her in her homeland,” Matthijs explained to The Local about the subject of her Facebook post.
“The point is that each case should be assessed individually. Asylum is one thing, but there should be other routes to a residence permit, especially for groups comprised of kids and young people without known family in their homeland and without a network in Sweden. I think we fail to enforce when it comes to those who have been sentenced to deportation in connection with crime and I think we can be tougher towards those who pose a danger for security and order in our country, for example with suspected terrorists or those who promote violence and lack Swedish citizenship but have residence permits, for example,” she elaborated.
The post led to more than 1,600 comments in response in the first two days, most of which seemed to sympathize with Matthijs.
“The best I’ve ever read about how our society works,” Monica Svenningsson wrote in response.
“So good! This is really just common sense. If our politicians were equally reasonable our lives would be easier. Maybe you should be a politician Lena. You’d get my vote!” Lisa Chemnitz said in her own reply.
“The reaction has been fantastic. A huge amount of support and love, which I never expected,” Matthijs commented on the reception.
This isn't the first time a Swedish police officer has gone viral after expressing opinions on asylum seekers in Sweden, but the previous example occurred for different reasons. In February, Peter Springare wrote a post claiming that the majority of preliminary investigations he carried out on suspected crimes in Örebro involved people from countries like Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Afghanistan.
The accuracy of his claim was challenged by a former colleague, and the post also provoked criticism from Swedish politicians including PM Stefan Löfven.
A Facebook group supporting the police officer was created as a result, but in April Springare himself advised supporters to leave the group because he did not want his name to be associated with a group that expresses “xenophobic, racist and other degrading statements about immigrants or other people”.