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'One of the cruellest countries': Briton deported after 21 years in Sweden

Becky Waterton
Becky Waterton - [email protected]
'One of the cruellest countries': Briton deported after 21 years in Sweden
A demonstrator waves a Union flag as he stands draped in an EU flag outside the Houses of Parliament in London on March 28, 2018. Photo: Tolga Akmen/AFP

British citizen Gregory was deported from Sweden to the UK last year because he was not eligible for post-Brexit residency. He tells The Local about the "cruel" process behind his departure and how his mental health suffered dramatically.


Gregory, who asked us not to use his surname, was already receiving treatment for PTSD and depression by the time he received his final order to leave Sweden last summer, and the news put him under so much stress he was admitted to hospital.

"I got the final decision around June or July last year," he told The Local. "I was so stressed I thought, 'I just can't take this'. I ended up in the psychiatric hospital in Malmö for a week because they were so worried about me. They thought I would come to the UK and top myself. I was really depressed." 


The order gave him just ten days to leave Sweden, and he had to book his own flight home.

"They said in the letter 'if you don't leave, we will come and arrest you and put you in a detention centre until we decide when we deport you, and you won't be able to come back to Schengen for five years."

What he found most heartless was that the authorities seemed unconcerned about the psychological impact the case had had on him, despite healthcare staff contacting them on multiple occasions.

"I'd been in contact with them every week, my doctor and the hospital had been in contact with them, they didn't care at all," he says. "I had to leave everything I've bought in my apartment, my furniture, most of my clothes, and I just came over to the UK with one big holdall of clothes, and that was it." 

"I was 56 at the time and had to start my whole life again."

'I've got no one else'

Gregory's two children, aged 20 and 22, were "inconsolable" when they found out that he had been given ten days to leave the country.

"My daughter was working abroad, but she was devastated and my son was just inconsolable. He said he wanted to come to the airport, I said 'don't come to the airport because I won't be able to get on the plane'."

Gregory speaks to his children online every day, and managed to arrange for them to visit him in London just before Christmas last year, although the cost of travel and a hotel for his children means regular trips between the two countries are impossible.


"I live in a house with seven other people and it's just not big enough for my children to stay here," he explained.

His new job working for a company at Heathrow airport makes it difficult for him to take time off at busy periods, and the cost of flying over to Sweden and booking a hotel in Malmö makes it difficult for him to travel to Sweden to visit his children. He expects he won't be able to see them again for about a year.

"I've got no one else, I've got no other family. All I've got is my two children, my parents died when I was ten years old," he said.

"It's so mentally and emotionally challenging to start your life again, from a country that you've been out of for 21 years. I slept on my mate's sofa for the first month. If I didn't have that, I would have been homeless."

"It's been horrendous. I would have been with my son on a Friday, spend the weekend with me or something like that. Because even though you've got WhatsApp, FaceTime, and all this sort of stuff, it's not the same. You need the human contact. I miss the hugs."


'I thought it was permanent but it wasn't'

Due to a misunderstanding over a permanent residency application back in 2012, Gregory discovered when he applied for post-Brexit residency shortly after applications opened in December 2021 that he wasn't eligible.

"With Brexit, everything changed. You had to reapply. That's what I did. I was one of the first to reapply, I think I applied on the first of December. Within seven days, I got turned down."

He was looking for work at the time he applied, meaning that he didn't qualify for residency in Sweden under EU rules despite living in the country for over two decades.

"The worst thing was, I was offered a job in December, but because the contract came to me after the first of January, immigration wouldn't accept it."


Gregory moved to Sweden from the UK in the early 2000s with his Swedish partner and their son. In 2002, his daughter was born in Sweden. He later split from his partner and applied for permanent residency in 2012 on the grounds of being the parent of two Swedish children under the age of 18.

What he didn't realise, however, was that the residency he was granted was only temporary, and that he had to reapply for permanent residency, providing photographs of him with his children to the Migration Agency to prove he had a relationship with them.

"I thought it was permanent leave to stay but it wasn't, they just basically said 'you can stay because your children are so young," he told The Local.

According to Gregory, he sent photographs and proof of his relationship with his children to the Migration Agency when he first applied, which the agency told him it had not received.


'Brexit won't affect me, I've been here so long'

Despite being eligible for a Swedish passport prior to Brexit, he never considered applying, telling Swedish friends once Brexit happened "this won't affect me, I've been here so long."

After his post-Brexit residence status was denied and the Migration Agency issued an order to leave, Gregory was assigned a lawyer from the agency, who was surprised that his original application in 2012 had been unsuccessful.

"It's very confusing, my lawyer was saying, I've got no idea why you weren't given [permanent residency] back in 2012," Gregory said.

His lawyer, as well as staff at the hospital and the clinic all tried to help find a way for him to stay in Sweden, with no success.

"I did everything in my power to stay. My children know that," he said.


No access to heart medication for over a year

Gregory also has a heart condition which carries a high risk of blood clots and stroke. He was taking medication for this condition, but his access to Swedish healthcare - and medication - was stopped once the Migration Agency rejected his application to stay in Sweden, leaving him unmedicated for over a year.

"I was receiving care from the heart hospital in Malmö and the Swedish health services basically phoned me and said you can't go to the doctor's, you can't have any medication," he said.

He has now registered with a doctor in the UK who has been able to prescribe him with heart medication.

"My doctor and my nurse at the psychiatric hospital in Malmö couldn't believe I'd been cut off, just like that. They were trying their best to try and get me the medication through them, but they weren't allowed to do it."

'You're just a number'

Gregory is not planning on returning to Sweden, as his line of work requires security clearance and a police check, which would make it difficult to get a job here.

Even if this wasn't the case, he said, the only reason for him to move back to Sweden would be his children.

"I wouldn't go back now. The way I've been treated, the way my family, me and my children were treated... If my son wanted to speak to immigration, they wouldn't even talk to him. You're just a number. It's horrendous."

Gregory explained that his story has shocked the Swedes he's told it to, who "couldn't believe" what had happened to him.

"Everyone says Sweden is this lovely country. It's not. It's one of the cruellest countries I've ever known," he said.


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steveh-77 2023/02/10 17:21
I used to live in the US. Lost my job during a huge downturn. Lost my visa (when I lost my job). Had only a few months to find a new job. Tried. Almost got a new job. But - when it got down to the wire I had to leave. Rented a white van. Packed my personal belongings. Drove to Canada. Started job hunting. Got a new job in Toronto after about four months. Earned half what I earned in the US. But -- it was still pretty good. Stayed positive. It turned out that Toronto is a great city. It's wide open for immigrants and Canadians alike. And to my suprise - it is nice place to live. Then, after a few years - lost my job in Toronto when the company closed its office and sacked all staff. Job hunting again. Around and around it went. And back to Sweden... Is this cruel? Don't think so.

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