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IMMIGRATION

Record number of Swedish citizenship applications concluded

Sweden’s Migration Agency expects to make a decision on a new record number of citizenship applications this year, as an increased focus on reducing long processing times begins to have an effect.

Record number of Swedish citizenship applications concluded
File photo of a Migration Agency office in Sweden. Photo: Adam Wrafter/SvD/TT

The Local has previously written about the long queues for Swedish citizenship, and the waiting times have also been criticised by Sweden’s Parliamentary Ombudsmen.

But things are now moving in the right direction, according to the Migration Agency.

In 2021, it made a decision on around 85,000 citizenship applications, the highest number yet, following efforts to streamline the process.

In October and November last year, around 11,000 citizenship applications were concluded per month, an increase of more than 70 percent compared to the monthly average in the first half of 2021.

“The investment in citizenship has started having an effect in the form of a significant increase in the number of concluded cases in the last quarter of 2021. We also saw that a trend was broken and the number of open citizenship cases began to decrease,” reads a new report by the Migration Agency, which sets out the agency’s forecast for the coming years.

It predicts it will again break the record for concluded cases this year, estimating it will make a decision on around 110,000 citizenship applications in both 2022 and 2023.

However, it warns that waiting times are expected to remain long for now, but that it expects to reach the target at the end of 2023, with no applicant waiting more than six months. At the turn of the year, around 100,000 people were waiting for Swedish citizenship.

Member comments

  1. I am waiting for a decision on citizenship application since September 2020, while I know people who applied last year and got reply in a week. How fair is this? Why not to process historical applications first, in order? I don’t even have a case officer yet, according Migrationsverket website.

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OPINION & ANALYSIS

OPINION: Racism doesn’t get much more obvious than Sweden’s refugee bias

When you look at Sweden's reception of Ukrainian refugees, it's clear that what was good enough for poor Muslims from Syria, is not considered good enough for white Christians from Ukraine, notes Stockholm University Professor Christian Christensen.

OPINION: Racism doesn't get much more obvious than Sweden's refugee bias

As thousands of Ukrainian refugees began to arrive in Sweden following the invasion by Russia, the headline of a recent opinion piece by the leader of Sweden’s far-right, anti-immigrant Sweden Democrat party spoke volumes: ‘There is a Difference Between Refugees and “Refugees”’

For Åkesson and his nationalist supporters, Ukrainian refugees are “real” refugees. They are from ”a Christian country with a culture that is more closely related” to that of Sweden, while refugees who escaped Syria and Afghanistan were framed as being made up of millions of backward, poorly-educated “professional migrants” (his term) devoid of European values and sensibilities.

With this backdrop, recent comments posted on Twitter by a municipal council member in Sweden’s second-largest city, Gothenburg, provided a disturbing insight into how politicians, not only the far-right but on all sides of the political spectrum, use different sets of standards when considering Ukrainian and Syrian refugees. And how the vision of refugees held by the Swedish far-right has bled into the Swedish political mainstream.

On May 5, Daniel Bernmar, the group leader for the opposition Left Party in the Gothenburg municipal council, sent a series of tweets in which he detailed how fellow council members expressed dismay over the poor services and paltry benefits available to refugees arriving from Ukraine. While on the surface an egalitarian position, the irony, Bernmar pointed out, was that the levels of financial support and services about which they were complaining were set by the very same group of politicians…when the arriving refugees were predominantly Syrian.

In other words, what the local politicians considered to be acceptable support for Syrians was now considered unacceptable support for Ukrainians.

Bernmar detailed a number of the specific concerns expressed by his colleagues.

Members of anti-immigration Sweden Democrats complained that the small amount of spending money given to Ukrainian refugees meant that they could not even afford to take local buses. Why, they asked, had the policy of allowing refugees to ride for free been scrapped? Others asked how without access to public transport Ukrainian refugees could be expected to take their children to school or look for work? And, in perhaps the most Swedish of issues, municipal councilors expressed concern that Ukrainian parents could not send children under the age of three to state-subsidized daycare.

Bernmar noted that he had “never before heard these parties or people address the unacceptable social or economic situation for refugees.” He then addressed the elephant in the room. The dismay expressed by colleagues over conditions facing refugees – conditions the same politicians approved when refugees were Syrian – was unsurprising, he wrote, given that they, “did not previously apply to white, Christian Europeans.”

These revelations should come as no surprise. While seemingly at odds with Sweden’s reputation for openness and egalitarianism, the fact is that political parties at both ends of the Swedish political spectrum have adopted increasingly aggressive anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies. Yet, when structural discrimination is presented in such a transparent fashion, it is still jarring.

At the most fundamental level, the case demonstrates how perceptions of the value of human life and human dignity are shaped by ethnicity, religion, and nationality. What was good enough for poor Muslims from Syria just isn’t good enough for white, European Christians. Racism and ethnocentrism don’t come much clearer than that.

But this revelation cuts even deeper and wider. And it applies to nations beyond Sweden’s borders, where immigrants and refugees struggle to construct new futures. What is evident from the comments made by the local politicians in Gothenburg is that they are fully aware of the impact of their policies on the everyday lives of refugees, how the ability to participate in the workforce, for example, is dependent upon basics such as transportation and childcare. That “integration” isn’t just a question of some mythological will, but of available material resources.

To remember that with Ukrainians, but forget it with Syrians, is cynicism of the highest order. It is to amplify the smear that there is a difference between refugees and “refugees.”

Listen to a discussion on Sweden and immigration on Sweden in Focus, The Local’s podcast. 

Click HERE to listen to Sweden in Focus on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Google Podcasts.

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