Opinion: Sweden’s migration law is a blow to Swedes and their families overseas

Opinion: Sweden's migration law is a blow to Swedes and their families overseas
Current laws means many international families have to choose between family separation or staying in their second homeland. File photo: Anna Hållams/imagebank.sweden.se
Debate around a new migration law rarely touches on one group severely affected by strict rules; Swedish citizens and their families overseas, writes Lena Wickman.

The Migration Committee will soon have its plan ready for the future of Swedish migration policy. It is intended to be long-term and sustainable, and the MPs have a big responsibility on their shoulders.

The media is full of articles on the subject, which for the most part are about targets, quotas on the number of refugees who can be accepted each year, what qualifies as a reason for asylum.

But what I'm wondering is, where are we Swedes abroad in this politically polarised issue?

In 2016, when a temporary migration law was introduced, we discovered that from one day to the next a return to Sweden had transformed from not only entailing the usual stresses that come with a move across continents, but also a bureaucratic nightmare.

As if we had stepped on a poorly placed banana peel, we had slipped into the queue for asylum seekers at the Migration Agency. It took a while to grasp this new reality.

In short, it means that a Swedish citizen with a partner from a non-EU country must now comply with the Migration Agency's requirements for housing and income before the non-EU partner can come to Sweden. That's if they have been granted a residence permit.

For this to be possible, the family has to live apart during the time it takes for the Migration Agency to process their case. Up to two years at the time of writing.

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The man on the street seems to be completely unaware of this situation, as do the majority of politicians. Expressions of surprise and outright skepticism are the most common reactions.

If you do find someone who is aware of how we are forced into family separation in order to relocate, it's almost impossible to get an explanation as to why we are treated in this way.

Including Swedish citizens in a law that is not intended for them, but without being able to explain its purpose – you might say it's the height of ignorance and incompetence of those who put these laws in place.

Many Swedes choose not to expose their families to this separation. Understandably. It's both an emotional and economic sacrifice. Instead, they stay in their other home country, and the reasons for a potential relocation are set aside. Sweden is thus losing out on a group of people with valuable experiences and skills.

And now the Migration committee is deciding how our future will look. Do Swedes overseas have reason to be optimistic about the future?

For those who know what the different political parties dangled in front of Swedes abroad in the 2018 election, it feels like a land of milk and honey.

But is that really the case? Or should we be realistic and realise that the Migration Committee is busy reaching an agreement on volume targets, refugee quotas, and reasons for asylum.

We Swedes abroad will have to choose between keeping our families together in a country that isn't Sweden, or the unattractive prospect of family separation. And if that's the case then in 2022, when our overseas votes are attractive once again, we can look forward to empty promises about what's perceived as attractive for the 660,000 Swedes abroad.

Personally I think that if Swedes abroad will be covered by a law on housing and income requirements, which creates a painful and unnecessary family separation, someone should be able to explain the purpose of this. Anything else is inhumane.

This opinion piece was written by Lena Wickman, first published in Swedish on Aftonbladet (read the original here) and translated into English by The Local.

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