Ali Omumi, who works for major Swedish engineering company ABB, was ordered to leave Sweden last year because a previous employer had made an error over his health insurance.
His case became one of the most high-profile out of a series of employees having their work permit renewals rejected over minor administrative errors – a problem that grew so ubiquitous that it became known under its own name as 'talent deportation', or kompetensutvisning in Swedish.
Omumi's situation was even debated in the Swedish parliament after an MP said he read about the engineer in The Local and was also brought up by organizations such as the Diversify Foundation.
He was then initially blocked from returning to Sweden on a new work permit, after the Migration Agency said it had been submitted “after too short a time” following the earlier rejection – however that decision was thrown out by the Migration Court and Omumi is now back working for ABB in Sweden.
The father-of-one is now taking the case to court, demanding that Sweden compensate him for the income he lost due to the two decisions.
The Centre for Justice, which is representing him, said it was “the first time that a wrongfully deported labour migrant sues the state and demands responsibility for the Migration Agency's talent deportations”.
“The talent deportations have meant personal tragedies for those who have been wrongly expelled and have been detrimental for Sweden. The state now has to take responsibility for the fact that the Migration Agency is making up rules and does not follow the applicable rules,” said Alexandra Loyd, legal counsel at the Centre for Justice.
“I can't understand why I had to quit my job at ABB and why I was treated like a criminal. With this legal process I hope to make a difference for other workers who have been wrongly expelled by the Migration Agency,” Omumi told TV4 as the lawsuit was handed into Stockholm District Court on Friday.
Omumi is not the only work permit holder who has made headlines in recent years. In 2017, more than 1,800 people had their work permit extensions rejected by the Migration Agency, after Sweden tightened its rules with the intention of cracking down on dishonest employers taking advantage of foreign labour.
It's not possible to say how many of these rejections were due to minor administrative errors like in Omumi's case, but the number was well over the double the figures for previous years, after a 2015 decision from the Migration Court of Appeal led to Swedish authorities interpreting cases on an increasingly strict basis.
But progress is being made.
Campaigners, media and politicians have been raising awareness of the issue, and in December 2017, the Migration Court of Appeal ruled that work permit renewals should be based on an overall assessment of each case (helhetsbedömning), rather than allowing single, small errors to derail an application.
This was hailed a landmark ruling for work permit holders, and although there have been several high-profile cases of people getting deported due to their employer's errors since, on the whole the number of rejections has fallen significantly.
In 2018, 664 people had their work permit renewals rejected, followed by 550 between January 1st and December 8th this year, according to fresh figures given to The Local by the Migration Agency. That is a return to the levels seen before 2017, when the issue first started making major headlines in Sweden.