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Travellers sleep rough outside Swedish airport in wait for new passports

TT/The Local
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Travellers sleep rough outside Swedish airport in wait for new passports
Peter Aslan, Anna Sylwander, Gunnar Söder and Simon Vincent met in the passport queue. They're planning to camp outside the police office together on Friday night. Photo: Fredrik Persson/TT

First it was impossible to get a passport appointment, then the machine producing them broke, and now police can't even guarantee temporary passports. Outside the Arlanda police office, a group of strangers are camping in tents overnight to get their passports in time.


They are numbers 84, 85 and 88 in the queue. Police guarantee that everyone with a number below 60 will get a passport today, maybe up to 70. Over that, there's no chance.

30 metres from the entrance to the police office, a group of strangers who met each other in the queue sit in camp chairs, holding each other's seats in the queue while they go to the toilet, plan food deliveries for the day or wait for the tent they will sleep in this evening to arrive.

"It just ended up like that, we started queueing together and then you get talking. It was the middle of the night so you're drawn to each other," Anna Sylwander said.

She joined the queue at 5am. On Monday morning, she's going on a business trip and thought she'd planned in good time when she tried to organise a passport five weeks ago.

"They said then that it would take three weeks to get a passport," she said.


Many of those in the queue have been waiting longer than that for a passport. It's not just people who forgot to renew their passports during the pandemic, some of them say.

Problems expected to continue for the rest of the year

On the police's website, they say that they expected Covid-19 restrictions to lessen successively and that the number of applications would slowly increase, but that was not the case.

The passport chaos was also exacerbated by the fact that the machine used to produce the passports in Finland, one of two in Europe, broke. Passport issues are expected to continue for the rest of the year, even though the police are working extra shifts and trained more staff in issuing passports.

"It's a real pity," Sylwander said. "We've had people here in the queue who were travelling for weddings and have had to leave the queue because they won't make it to the front. They'd waited six weeks for their passports."

Police can't guarantee that everyone in the queue will be given a temporary passport. Photo: Fredrik Persson/TT

"There's no information"

A temporary passport can be booked no earlier than 72 hours before travel, so the group who are planning on camping out together weren't able to get in line earlier in the week, when the queue was shorter. The queue gets longer before weekends and holiday periods.

"It's not like we can decide when we can come to pick up our passports," said Gunnar Söder, who is also planning to camp out overnight.

"And there's no information from the police on the situation out here."


"I understand things can go wrong," Sylwander added. "But in that situation I think you should make sure you stay open until 10pm, like they do in other police stations, not until 4pm."

The police have written on their homepage that they understand people's frustration and are "obviously not pleased with the situation". They also write that they cannot guarantee a temporary passport.

Shorter queues for security

On Arlanda's terminal 5, the holiday season is not immediately obvious in the same way. Travellers Petra Astner and Ann Rydén planned in order to have enough time to get through the long queues for security which have been reported in recent days. Astner says they arrived four hours before departure.

"Now we have loads of extra time. What should we do, drink wine?" Rydén says.

"Then they'll have two drunk people to look after, that would be a real pain for them."

Original Swedish article by Andreas Sjölin/TT


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