Sweden loses battle to deport mechanic who took no holiday

An Iraqi mechanic who faced deportation because he failed to take a holiday can now stay in Sweden, a Migration Court in Malmö has ruled.

Sweden loses battle to deport mechanic who took no holiday
Sameer Subhat won his case in the Migration Court. Photo: Centre for Justice
“I have no words to describe how happy I feel,” Sameer Suhbat, 23, said in a statement after the judgement was handed down on Tuesday. 
The court ruled in its judgement that Suhbat, who lives in Täby outside Stockholm, could stay because his working conditions had not undercut those allowed according to his work permit, as Sweden's Migration Agency claimed.
He had, the court noted, even been paid for a period when he hadn't had to work because the garage had been shut. 
“That Sameer Suhbat did not receive holiday benefits during this period cannot therefore be seen as a disadvantage to him,” the court ruled. “It should instead be deemed to have been to his advantage to be given time off while still receiving a salary.” 
Johannes Forssberg, the lawyer at the Stockholm public interest law firm Centre for Justice who represented Subhat, said the case had been one of the most marked examples of the Migration Agency's narrow and overzealous interpretation of work permit law. 
“Common sense has beaten the Migration Agency's strange interpretation of the law,” Forssberg said. “This is a sensible and rational judgement.” 
Forssberg said he hoped Subhat's case would now set a precedent on two important issues: mistakes made by previous employers, and how to judge whether an employee has been granted sufficient holidays. 
The Migration Agency last May ruled that Subhat should be deported because he had taken insufficient holiday, even though he had not worked for his new employer long enough to quality for any paid time off. 
It said that he should have taken an unpaid holiday, even though under Swedish law, an employee cannot be forced to take a holiday without salary. 
According to the law firm, since the top-tier court the Migration Court of Appeal ruled against the Migration Agency in the “pizza baker case” in December, the agency has tended to take a more nuanced approach to work permit holders whose employers have made mistakes over salary and insurance. 
But, in cases involving holidays, it said that the agency had up until now remained inflexible. 
Yesterday, The Local reported on the case of a sales engineer from Iran who lost his fight in the first-tier appeals court, the Migration Court, because of a series of errors made by his employer.

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EXPLAINED: What do we know about Sweden’s new work permit bill?

Sweden's parliament is expected next Wednesday to vote through a new bill empowering the government to increase the minimum salary for a work permit. This is what we know so far.

EXPLAINED: What do we know about Sweden's new work permit bill?

What is the new bill and where does it come from? 

The new bill, called “A higher subsistence requirement for labour migrants” (Ett höjt försörjningskrav för arbetskraftsinvandrare), was formally proposed by the former Social Democrat government on September 6th after discussions in the social insurance committee. 

The Social Democrat government on February 6th appointed the judge Anita Linder to carry out an inquiry into “improved labour migration”, which was then sent out for consultation and discussed in the parliament’s social affairs committee, before the government submitted the proposal to parliament. 

What does the bill propose? 

The proposal will empower the government to raise the maintenance requirement for work permit applicants from outside the EU, the Nordic countries and Switzerland above the current 13,000 kronor a month. 

The bill does not propose how much higher the maintenance requirement should be, or propose a date for when the changes should come into force.

In the proposal, it states that the new law can be implemented on “the day the government decides”. The new threshold, meanwhile, is to be set by a government directive which is supposed to be issued at the same time the law comes into force. 

How high is the new maintenance threshold likely to be? 

The government is most likely to follow the Tidö Agreement through which the far-right Sweden Democrats and the three government parties (the Moderates, Christian Democrats and Liberals) agreed to back Moderate leader Ulf Kristersson as prime minister. 

In this agreement the parties agreed to set the minimum salary for work permits to be awarded at the median salary in Sweden, which is about 33,000 kronor a month.

This is a compromise between the 35,000 kronor minimum salary put forward by the Sweden Democrats and the Christian Democrats, and the proposals from the Moderates and Social Democrats, who wanted to set the rate at 85 percent of the median salary (about 27,540 a month) and the Social Democrats, who have floated a minimum salary of about 27,000 kronor. 

The Centre Party and the Liberal Party were both against the proposal in the run-up to September’s general election, arguing that Sweden’s existing liberal labour migration laws have been economically beneficial.

The Liberals are likely to respect the Tidö Agreement now they are part of the government. 

 READ ALSO: How do Sweden’s political parties want to reform work permits?

Who is against raising the salary threshold? 

The Centre Party has been the biggest opponent in parliament, arguing that the hotel, restaurant and retail industries in particular will struggle to find staff if they are not able to hire workers internationally. 

Martin Ådahl, the party’s economics and business spokesperson, told The Local his party was opposed on both practical and principled grounds to the proposal.

“It is clear in practical terms that many businesses rely on persons from abroad that have qualifications which lead to more growth and jobs in Sweden,” he said. “This is dependent on people starting with reasonable wages because they are new and don’t speak the language. It’s a loss for both Sweden and the individuals.” 

But he said the party’s liberal ideology also made supporting the proposal impossible. 

“On principle, it is wrong that authorities and boards staffed by public officials should tell businesses which talents they should hire at what wages,” he said. “This kind of wage regulation and minimum wages is something Sweden is opposed to otherwise.”

A lot of criticism has also come from business. Ann Öberg, the chief executive of Almega, a trade body representing businesses in the IT, telecoms, engineering, architecture, media, private healthcare, train operations, and security industries, wrote an opinion piece in the Dagens Nyheter newspaper at the end of October criticising the move. 

She argued that it was unrealistic to expect unemployed people already living in Sweden to fill the gap created when low-skilled labour migrants can no longer come to the country. 

READ ALSO: Swedish businesses attack work permit threshold

How likely is it that the proposal will be voted through on Wednesday? 

It’s a dead cert. 

With the three government parties, the supporting Sweden Democrats and the opposition Social Democrats all supporting the change, there is no chance of it being blocked. 

Only the Left Party, the Greens and the Centre Party are opposed, and they together have only 66 MPs out of the 349 in parliament.