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How two rejected asylum seekers spent a month living at a Stockholm airport

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How two rejected asylum seekers spent a month living at a Stockholm airport
Travellers at Arlanda airport. File photo: Mikael Fritzon/TT
13:51 CEST+02:00
The operator of Sweden's biggest airport has told The Local about how a man and his mother lived in one of their terminals for a month after having their asylum applications rejected.

Andrey, 24, and his mother left Turkmenistan ten years ago out of fear of the repressive regime. When crossing their home country's border, they had their identification documents taken from them, and were told their Turkmen citizenship had been revoked, Swedish tabloid Expressen reports.

"When we left the country the police said we couldn't come back, and that we'd be punished by death or end up in prison as we're Christians. All our relatives were killed in Turkmenistan," Andrey told Expressen.

READ ALSO: Sweden cuts 2017 asylum seeker forecast again, but fewer cases will be processed

When they first arrived in Sweden in 2007, the half-Russian duo were offered jobs in southern Sweden by a Russian man. For two years they worked for the man, until he moved.

In 2009, for the first time since arriving in the Nordic nation they were informed that they could seek asylum from the Migration Agency (Migrationsverket), which they did. But their applications were rejected. They appealed, but lost and were again told they had to leave the country.

In February this year, they were forced to leave their flat in Kiruna, in Sweden's far north, and ended up living on the streets in the freezing cold.

A neighbour eventually helped them buy tickets to Finland, thinking they might be able to get asylum there. But as Finland is also a member of the EU, and as the two had already applied for asylum in Sweden, they were sent back.

After being escorted by Finnish police officers to Stockholm Arlanda, the pair decided the only option was to live in the capital's main airport. As they have refused to cooperate on their return to Turkmenistan, they are no longer entitled to accommodation or daily allowances from Migrationsverket.

"We sit here, day after day, week after week. Some days we don't have anything to eat," Andrey told Expressen.

Turkmenistan refuses to allow Andrey and his mother back into the country. As they are Russian speakers, Migrationsverket has also tried deporting the two to Russia.

Swedavia, the company that runs Arlanda and other major airports in Sweden, has tried to help the pair that spent a month living in the airport terminals, according to Adam Ekman, press spokesperson at Swedavia.

"We've been in contact with the authorities and tried to solve this issue, to the extent possible. And we've handed out some food coupons, blankets and fruit," Ekman told The Local.

READ ALSO: Stockholm airport gains on rival in busiest airport ranking

Has this ever happened before – that people waiting to be deported end up living at your airport?

"Not as far as I'm aware. It's out of the ordinary for something like this to happen," Ekman said.

What's Swedavia's view on this, having people stranded at Arlanda waiting to be deported? 

"It's sad and regrettable that people get trapped in this way. In this particular case we feel that we've done as much as we possible can to resolve this situation," Ekman said.

Migrationsverket does not comment on individual cases, but Pierre Karatzian at the agency's press office confirmed they are aware of the situation. The reason why Andrey and his mother are not entitled to food or a place to sleep despite being rejected re-entry into Turkmenistan is due to a recent law change.

"The government and the Riksdag decided last year on this new law which meant that people who do not cooperate with their return can lose their right to accommodation and daily allowance. In those cases, where an asylum application has been rejected, you do have the option to appeal, and then a migration court will decide if Migrationsverket's decision was correct," Karatzian explained.

READ ALSO: Refugees cycled 250 km to protest against Sweden's new asylum laws

Karatzian stressed, however, that Andrey and his mother are free to leave the airport.

"The fact that these people are at Arlanda, that is something they have chosen for themselves. That's not something we have decided. They're not trapped at the airport, so to speak," Karatzian told The Local.

Migrationsverket's figures from January 2016 until now show that 6771 people have had their rights to accommodation and daily allowance revoked. Out of those people, approximately 443 have appealed that decision, according to Karatzian.

Karatzian and Adam Ekman at Swedavia said Andrey and his mother finally left Arlanda this week. Their exact whereabouts are unknown.

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