Abdullah Al-Moadhen while studying in Donetsk, Ukraine. Photo:Private
Abdullah Al-Moadhen, who qualified as a doctor in Ukraine shortly before coming to Sweden in 2015, was visiting the Orkla Foods stall at a job fair in October, hoping he could adapt his medical training to food safety, when the company's representative lost patience with him and seized his application form.
“She tore it up and threw it on the ground,” he told the Local. “I felt sad and disappointed and depressed. I don't know why she treated me like this. I've spoken to a lot of companies and given my CV to them, and they've all treated me perfectly well, except for Orkla.”
Al-Moadhen has now made a formal complaint to Sweden's Discrimination Ombudsman (DO) on the advice of the Swedish state employment service.
According to Al-Moadhen, the altercation began when he asked the company's representative to help explain a section on their application form, and she refused.
“She said 'this is an elementary question, why are you asking me?'” Al-Moadhen said.
She then began to speak Swedish so rapidly that Al-Moadhen, who has taught himself Swedish as he is not eligible for free government-funded tuition, could not follow her.
“I said in Swedish, 'OK, can you speak Swedish slowly? I don't understand if you speak quickly'. And then she said, “In our factory, we don't need people who need Swedish spoken slowly.”
Al-Moadhen felt this was rude and told her so. “I said, 'look, if you say that people will get disappointed'. And then she ripped up my application paper and threw it on the floor.”
After this the representative told him to leave the job fair, but he refused telling her that she had no right to ask that as it was a public place.
Cecilia Franck, Orkla's head of press, said the company was trying to better understand what took place before responding to DO.
“No one should experience discrimination in contact with us,” she said. “As soon as we got the information from DO about how this person experienced the situation, we started an internal investigation to get the whole picture of what really happened.”
“Hearing his version makes us concerned, but we need to get the whole picture before we can respond to DO. It wouldn't be fair otherwise.”
Al-Moadhen is currently trying to pass the language and proficiency tests needed to start practising medicine in Sweden, but is having to study medical terminology alone, as Eslöv municipality where he lives has told him that it lacks the resources to provide specialist medical language training.
He took a medical proficiency test in September, but failed.
“Everything we studied for six years, you need to study again in the Swedish language. I have to read all my diploma, and all my six years, I have to study in Swedish.”