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Lebanese entrepreneur wins fight to stay in Sweden

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Lebanese entrepreneur wins fight to stay in Sweden
Hussein Ismail on the premises of Birka Biostorage in Lund. Photo: Anna Gisselsson.
11:52 CEST+02:00
A Lebanese pharma entrepreneur who faced deportation for lowering his own salary has won the right to stay in Sweden, following a long court battle.
Hussein Ismail came to Sweden from Lebanon in 2014 to take up the post of chief executive at Birka Biostorage, which he co-founded remotely in 2011 with his brother Ali Ismail. 
 
But at the start of 2018 the 33-year-old father-of-two was given four weeks to leave the country after Sweden's Migration Agency refused to renew his work permit.
 
The agency said it had rejected the renewal because Ismail had in 2015 paid him himself below the accepted union rate for two months, and below the minimum allowed for a work permit holder for one.  
 
"This is the best thing that we hoped for," Ismail told The Local on Sunday. "Before the end of this one-year renewal, we will apply for permanent residency, and hopefully we will get that successfully and stay here for a longer time." 
 
Ismail learnt on Tuesday that the Administration Court in Stockholm had ordered that he be given a one-year work permit, overturning the decisions of both the Migration Agency and the Migration Court of Appeal. 
 
His lawyer had argued that while he had had underpaid himself for three months in 2015, over the year as a whole his average monthly salary had remained above the accepted union rate. 
 
The Local reported on Ismail's situation soon after the permit was rejected in 2018.
 
Ismail said he believed that Swedish courts and government agencies were not easily influenced by reports in the media, as they generally followed procedure and regulations. But he said he believed media campaigns such as the current one against the expulsion of skilled workers and entrepreneurs could nevertheless "indirectly affect decision-makers". 
 
He said the appeals process had been stressful, and had left him unable to travel abroad for fear of not being able to return to Sweden. 
 
"It was really hard for us personally to have to wait for this long," he said. "My father-in-law was diagnosed with cancer, and a few months later he passed away. We never got the chance to meet him to say goodbye, and he couldn't see his grandchildren." 
 
Ismail said Birka Biostorage was about to expand five-fold, and would shortly apply for its new facilities at Science Village in Lund to be inspected by Sweden's Medical Products Agency.
 
"Of course there will be more recruitment in terms of creating new jobs and hopefully we will be recognized globally within our industry." 
 
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