Threats against Migration Agency staff on the rise

Migration Agency staff have reported an increase in threats and abusive phone calls from people described in many cases as applicants acting out in frustration over long waits for an answer.

Threats against Migration Agency staff on the rise
A Migration Agency office. Photo: Marcus Ericsson/TT

In the first nine months of the year, 72 cases of physical violence against Migration Agency (Migrationsverket) workers were recorded, compared to a total of 43 cases over the whole of 2016.

Employees also receive threats at work, by e-mail, telephone or social media. According to Helene Liss, a staff safety representative at the office in Stockholm, frustration is behind many of the incidents.

“There has maybe been an almost endless wait for your case to be looked at, and now you're waiting for a decision. Frustration may then arise,” she told Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet.

“There are also more threats of self-harm and suicide,” she added.

Aftonbladet reports that a total of 2,875 incidents have been recorded from January 1st to September 30th, ranging from the 72 cases of violence and death threats to comparatively less serious verbal abuse.

Almost 163,000 people sought asylum in Sweden in 2015, and the Migration Agency employed new staff to help process the applications. There are currently some 85,000 people “in the system”, who are either still waiting for an answer or have been rejected and are waiting for their appeal.

Many of The Local's readers have complained of the waiting times, above all the uncertainty of knowing when an answer will come, with some applicants finding out within weeks and others facing waits of more than a year depending on how long it takes to process their applications.

Maria Johansson, a Migration Agency expert on the working environment, also told Aftonbladet that much of the verbal abuse comes from frustrated applicants.

“The majority of the incidents are frustrated applicants who do not express themselves in a good way. They're not substantial threats, but definitely affect our workers who have to encounter people expressing themselves in this way. We do our best to support each other,” she said.