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Setback for Swedish bill aimed at reducing deportations of skilled workers

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Setback for Swedish bill aimed at reducing deportations of skilled workers
Star developer Tayyab Shabab fell victim to Sweden's harsh laws on work permits. Photo: Claudio Bresciani / TT
16:10 CET+01:00
A proposed amendment to Swedish law which would have reduced the number of foreign workers deported over technicalities or mistakes in their permits has been rejected by Sweden’s Council on Legislation.

A spokesperson for an organization which campaigns for the rights of work permit holders told The Local the group was "heartbroken" by the ruling.

Sweden's migration rules have been criticized in the past year for not being flexible enough, including by key industry players such as Spotify, following a number of high-profile cases where tech talents were threatened with deportation due to technicalities.

Sweden's Justice and Migration Minister Morgan Johansson described the situation as "Kafkaesque" and the government proposed a change to the law which was expected to come into force by December this year.

But now the country's legislative council, which checks draft bills before they can be submitted to parliament, has rejected the bill proposed by the opposition Alliance coalition, which had been approved by the governing Social Democrats as well as the Green Party and Left Party.

The strict rules currently in place are designed to prevent employers from exploiting migrant workers by giving them poorer working conditions than promised.

The motion aimed to tackle this by introducing a "principle of proportionality", allowing case officers to take multiple factors into account when assessing a particular decision, including their job and professional skills, rather than indiscriminately ordering the deportation of all those who were found to have problems with their permits. It also hoped to improve flexibility, giving employers a chance to rectify mistakes before revoking the employee's permit.

But the Council on Legislation argued that the proposals "would imply a fundamental change to the current system of labor migration", and advised against their introduction.

Rafiqul Islam from the Work Permit Holders' Association (WPHA) told The Local that the group was “heartbroken” by the decision, after the motion had given them “a bit of hope”.

“The situations of work permit holders are really frustrating. After working in this country for years; foreign workers are being deported over system errors or administrative mistakes. The numbers of deportations are around 400 every month. This motion gave us a bit hope that our problem would be solved in December this year,” Islam said.

He added that following the decision, many of the association’s members had been in touch to ask for advice as it was unclear whether the law would be changed in December as promised.

“It's been over a year that we are being deported, people are living with extreme uncertainty. We can not wait longer. We are here to work, not to deal with this kind of uncertainty that we are not responsible for. We need a policy which will protect foreign workers as soon as possible,” he told The Local.

Under the current system, he emphasized, many workers face deportation “due to system failures, not for our mistakes.”

In July this year, figures showed that more than one hundred tech workers have had their request to stay in Sweden denied in an 18-month period.

One example is Tayyab Shabab, a developer from Pakistan who had his application for a work permit extension rejected despite having a steady job in Sweden because a previous employer forgot to take out occupational pension insurance for him.

And The Local reported on the case of Bangladeshi worker Syed Latif who was deported because he received his job via LinkedIn rather than Sweden's job centre Arbetsförmedlingen. 

The decision of the Council on Legislation is advisory and non-binding, and the politicians behind the bill will now be able to address the criticisms raised.

READ ALSO: 'Sweden is crippling its ability to innovate'

With reporting by Eugenia Tanaka

 

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