Ukrainian refugees in Sweden forced to queue for days

Ukrainian asylum-seekers have been forced to wait for hours outside the Migration Agency's offices in Sweden, but are still being turned away at the door each day due to staff shortages, staff and volunteers have reported.

Ukrainian refugees in Sweden forced to queue for days
A queue of people fleeing the war in Ukraine wait outside the Migration Agency's office in Jägersro in Malmö. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Alina Sydorenko, a Ukrainian woman in her 30s, who has fled Odessa in southern Ukraine, tried to register with the agency for four days in a row without success. “After an hour they said ‘there’s no point, you might as well go home’,” she said.

The EU’s temporary protection directive gives everyone seeking asylum in Sweden the possibility of receiving assistance with food and housing, and the right to work, but it requires applicants to register at the Migration Agency, which is easier said than done.

Although the agency have offices at multiple locations across the country, they are only open from 9am-3pm.

“The queue starts as early as two-three o’clock in the morning,” said Malin Aronsson, a volunteer and pastor at Centrumkyrkan church in Sundbyberg outside Stockholm, where the Migration Agency have an office. “That’s when people start seeking shelter in the church.”

One man, who wanted to be anonymous, said that people queuing have been sent home at lunchtime on at least one occasion, after staff closed the office in advance, when they realised they wouldn’t be able to process any more applications.

Despite the fact that the weather has been sunny in the Stockholm suburb, conditions are cold for those who have been forced to stand still for hours.

It’s also cold outside the agency’s office in Malmö, where Sydorenko has been trying to register. The first time she started queueing at 10am, but since then she’s started arriving before the office opens, in the hope that she’ll receive help before it closes.

“Today we arrived at 7am. It’s so cold, we stood here for five hours,” she said. “Tomorrow we’re going to try to get here at 5:30am”.

She thanked the volunteers who have been handing out food and warm socks to the people waiting in line. 

The Migration Agency told the TT newswire in a written statement that the biggest challenge was “the fact that we have a limited amount of employees who can register applications”. “At the same time,” it said. “The need is huge and escalating”.

The agency told the newswire that they had registered 1,710 people last Monday, compared to an average of 30 people per day normally.

But according to prognoses, Sweden could be due to receive as many as 4,000 refugees per day, with the Migration Agency warning that there may be an even larger number of arrivals going unreported.

The Migration Agency is planning on hiring 500 new staff, Sveriges Radio Ekot reports.

In the office in Malmö, staff have begun prioritising the elderly, as well as children who arrive by themselves. This means that Sydorenko and others like her are constantly being moved to the back of the queue.

Even though Sydorenko says she understands why the agency is keeping her waiting, the bottleneck caused by the lack of manpower is causing her a lot of frustration.

“Many of the people coming here were forced to flee with nothing. They’ve travelled a long way and have no money with them. We want to work and live like we did before,” she told the newswire.

Despite her irritation, she still extended her thanks to the local office in Malmö, who she said were really taking their time to explain the situation to the people waiting in line. But, she added, there must be a simpler way to solve this issue.

“Shouldn’t you be able to register online?” she said.

Member comments

  1. The Migration Agency has been notoriously slow in recent years. Hopefully this will spur them to find some way of making the process more efficient or at least look into hiring more workers.

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Rapping, breakdancing Ukrainians win Eurovision in musical morale boost

Ukraine won the Eurovision Song Contest Sunday with an infectious hip-hop folk melody, boosting spirits in the embattled nation fighting off a Russian invasion that has killed thousands and displaced millions of people.

Rapping, breakdancing Ukrainians win Eurovision in musical morale boost

Riding a huge wave of public support, Kalush Orchestra beat 24 competitors in the finale of the world’s biggest live music event with “Stefania”, a rap lullaby combining Ukrainian folk and modern hip-hop rhythms.

“Please help Ukraine and Mariupol! Help Azovstal right now,” implored frontman Oleh Psiuk in English from the stage after their performance was met by a cheering audience.

In the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, the triumph was met with smiles and visible relief.

“It’s a small ray of happiness. It’s very important now for us,” said Iryna Vorobey, a 35-year-old businesswoman, adding that the support from Europe was “incredible”.

Following the win, Psiuk — whose bubblegum-pink bucket hat has made him instantly recognisable — thanked everyone who voted for his country in the contest, which is watched by millions of viewers.

“The victory is very important for Ukraine, especially this year. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Glory to Ukraine,” Psiuk told journalists.

Music conquers Europe

The win provided a much-needed morale boost for the embattled nation in its third month of battling much-larger Russian forces.

Mahmood & BLANCO  performing for Italy at Eurovision 2022

Mahmood & BLANCO perform on behalf of Italy during the final of the Eurovision Song contest 2022 in Turin, Italy. (Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP)

“Our courage impresses the world, our music conquers Europe!” he wrote on Facebook.

“This win is so very good for our mood,” Andriy Nemkovych, a 28 year-old project manager, told AFP in Kyiv.

The victory drew praise in unlikely corners, as the deputy chief of the NATO military alliance said it showed just how much public support ex-Soviet Ukraine has in fighting off Moscow.

“I would like to congratulate Ukraine for winning the Eurovision contest,” Mircea Geoana said as he arrived in Berlin for talks that will tackle the alliance’s expansion in the wake of the Kremlin’s war.

“And this is not something I’m making in a light way because we have seen yesterday the immense public support all over Europe and Australia for the bravery of” Ukraine, Geoana said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the win “a clear reflection of not just your talent, but of the unwavering support for your fight for freedom”.

And European Council President Charles Michel said he hoped next year’s contest “can be hosted in Kyiv in a free and united Ukraine”.

‘Ready to fight’
Despite the joyous theatrics that are a hallmark of the song contest, the war in Ukraine hung heavily over the festivities this year.
The European Broadcasting Union, which organises the event, banned Russia on February 25, the day after Moscow invaded its neighbour.
“Stefania”, written by Psiuk as a tribute to his mother before the war, mixes traditional Ukrainian folk music played on flute-like instruments with an invigorating hip-hop beat. The band donned richly embroidered ethnic garb
to perform their act.
Nostalgic lyrics such as “I’ll always find my way home even if all the roads are destroyed” resonated all the more as millions of Ukrainians have been displaced by war.

Kalush Orchestra received special authorisation from Ukraine’s government to attend Eurovision, since men of fighting age are prohibited from leaving the country, but that permit expires in two days.

Psiuk said he was not sure what awaited the band as war rages back home.

“Like every Ukrainian, we are ready to fight as much as we can and go until the end.

Britain’s ‘Space Man’

Ukraine beat a host of over-the-top acts at the kitschy, quirky annual musical event, including Norway’s Subwoolfer, who sang about bananas while dressed in yellow wolf masks, and Serbia’s Konstrakta, who questioned national healthcare while meticulously scrubbing her hands onstage.

Coming in second place was Britain with Sam Ryder’s “Space Man” and its stratospheric notes, followed by Spain with the reggaeton “SloMo” from Chanel.

After a quarter-century of being shut out from the top spot, Britain had hoped to have a winner in “Space Man” and its high notes belted by the affable, long-haired Ryder.

Britain had been ahead after votes were counted from the national juries, but a jaw-dropping 439 points awarded to Ukraine from the public pushed it to the top spot.

Eurovision’s winner is chosen by a cast of music industry professionals — and members of the public — from each country, with votes for one’s home nation not allowed.

Eurovision is a hit among fans not only for the music, but for the looks on display and this year was no exception. Lithuania’s Monika Liu generated as much social media buzz for her bowl cut hairdo as her sensual and elegant

Other offerings included Greece’s “Die Together” by Amanda Georgiadi Tenfjord and “Brividi” (Shivers), a duet from Italy’s Mahmood and Blanco.

Italy had hoped the gay-themed love song would bring it a second consecutive Eurovision win after last year’s “Zitti e Buoni” (Shut up and Behave) from high-octane glam rockers Maneskin.