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Work permit success! Syrian tech star back in Sweden after deportation threat

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Work permit success! Syrian tech star back in Sweden after deportation threat
Safinaz Awad, in the purple shirt, celebrating with her colleagues. Photo: Sweet Systems
13:23 CET+01:00
A Syrian refugee who was deported to Greece under the Dublin Convention has been granted a work permit and is back at work as a computer programmer in Sweden.

The Local wrote about Safinaz Awad, 32, in January, after the Migration Agency rejected her request for asylum and told her to leave the country. The reason? She had previously received asylum in Greece when she first arrived in Europe after fleeing war-torn Syria, which meant she could not re-apply in Sweden.

"It's sad because if she had applied for a work permit from the beginning, I don't see why it would have been a problem for her to come to Sweden," a Migration Agency spokesperson told The Local at the time.

Awad's employer – Stockholm-based IT company Sweet Systems – helped her temporarily return to Greece with her husband and three-year-old son from where she applied for a work permit.

In the meantime, the company also made headlines after it published a strongly worded open letter to Sweden's migration minister and business minister attacking the decision

Their stubbornness paid off and the story has a happy ending. Last week Awad was told her work permit application had been granted, and she was back in the office on Monday with no time to waste.

"It's great that I could come back. I didn't expect to get a positive decision because there have been so many negative decisions," a delighted Awad told The Local. "I want to make a good life for my son in Sweden."

"There have been a lot of tears and champagne," added Sweet Systems' chief executive Bodil Ekström.

"I am so happy both for Safinaz' family, but also that we could help someone in this situation and that we got her back because she's so valuable to us."

Awad was the latest in a succession of skilled tech workers threatened with deportation from Sweden, with some decisions being overturned by appeals courts and others choosing to pursue a career elsewhere.

Their stories have sparked heated debate in Sweden in the past year – partly because it is an industry where the Nordic country is fighting to plug a skills gap in the labour market and partly because of the seemingly unfair nature of many of the deportations.

Ekström said her company was not afraid to continue hiring foreign workers. "We're hiring more people from abroad as we speak. Even if it takes six months to get it right, we'll do it. We're also recommending other people to make their way here, simply because we need them and their skills," she told The Local.

Awad's case is somewhat different to that of many of the other tech workers; the debate has so far largely centred on work permit renewals being rejected over bureaucratic mistakes, often made by the employer.

A government-commissioned inquiry earlier this month suggested that labour migrants should be able to ask for compensation from their employer if they are denied a residence permit due to the employer's error.

Reactions to the proposal from Swedish business organizations have been negative. Employers' association Almega called it "misguided" and said it would not stop deportations, while the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise said the real problem is that the rules over work permits are not clear enough.

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