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'Stop deporting skilled migrants!' Swedish CEOs say

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'Stop deporting skilled migrants!' Swedish CEOs say
Some 30 Swedish company bosses have signed the open letter. Photo: Fredrik Persson/ SCANPIX
13:02 CET+01:00
A group of CEOs representing some of Sweden's most prominent companies, including retail giant H&M and telecom equipment maker Ericsson, on Friday slammed the country for deporting a number of highly-skilled workers.

In a letter published by the financial daily Dagens Industri and signed by around 30 bosses – including H&M CEO Stefan Persson and Ericsson chief executive Börje Ekholm – they write that expulsions of foreign employees "harm business" and that "Swedish companies need to hire globally".

"We cannot expect engineers, IT-technicians, and other specialists to leave their countries if they risk expulsion from Sweden for unpredictable reasons," they added.

The migration agency has faced criticism for refusing to extend foreign employees' work permits, leading to expulsion, on controversial grounds.

Hussein Ismail, a Lebanese engineer at a biotech company that he founded in 2012, is facing deportation along with his wife and children after cutting his own wage for three months in 2015 to help his company survive.

READ ALSO: Why is Sweden deporting its foreign professionals?

Sweden's strict laws against social dumping stipulate that if a foreign worker receives a salary below a collective agreement, then that employee must be sent back to the country of origin.

In other cases, the migration agency decided to deport a foreign worker who failed to take the required amount of holiday and because of an administrative error made by an employer.

The migration agency doesn't comment publicly on individual cases but insists on the respect for the Swedish rule of law when it sends a deportation order.

Jenny Lindén Urnes, head of a group specializing in steel coatings, said the expulsions are "an absurd soap opera" that "weakens Sweden's competitiveness".

And Ericsson CEO Ekholm warned in the letter that if the company "wants to keep its research activities in Sweden, then economic immigration must operate in a transparent and predictable way".

Job shortages and unemployed foreigners

Such complaints may have been heard. In December, the Migration Court of Appeal handed down a ruling aimed at introducing more flexibility in handling the cases.

"This is still insufficient, put an end to these tragedies and do it now," the bosses said in the letter.

According to Johan Attby, founder of the social network Fishbrain, Stockholm will have to find 60,000 IT professionals by 2020 or risk losing its status as a hub for startups.

"We have a continued broad job growth and a widespread labour shortage in several professions," Annelie Almérus, analyst at the Swedish Public Employment service, said in a report.

"This provides good job opportunities within a record amount of professions," she added.

The need for engineers, teachers and nurses in Sweden are evident.

Sweden has received 400,000 asylum applications since 2012, a record per capita in Europe.

This boost to its ageing population will only bear fruit in the long run: many applicants are still in school and others lack the required skills and qualifications.

"You need at least a high-school degree to get a long-term establishment in the job market," Almérus said.

Foreign-born residents are five times as likely (20 percent) to be unemployed as those born in the Nordic nation, according to the Statistics Sweden authority.

The unemployment average was 6.5 percent in January, according to new figures presented by Statistics Sweden on Friday. Starting from May, Sweden's centre-left minority government is to expand subsidized entry-level jobs, a move demanded by employers.

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