A voice for newcomers in Sweden

‘I am a human being just like you. There is no difference’

The scene at the first MIG Talks discussion. Photo: The Local

Published: 18.Mar.2016 17:39 hrs

Those are the words of Omar Atrash, who arrived in Sweden from Syria in 2012 and shared his reflections through MIG Talks, a new communications initiative launched this week.

Omar, a 28-year-old academic with a philosophy degree, now lives in suburban Stockholm. He was one of ten people who shared their stories on Monday at an event in Stockholm.

The discussion also included representatives from more than a dozen different stakeholder organizations and public agencies who are also part of MIG Talks, a joint communications effort initiated by the Swedish Migration Agency (Migrationsverket) that features a series of discussions, events, and other communications initiatives to be held throughout 2016

The aim of MIG Talks is to foster better knowledge and understanding about migration to Sweden by creating a forum for exchanging information, experiences, and perspectives.

By sharing individual stories and views from both newcomers and different stakeholders, MIG Talks can contribute to a more nuanced and inclusive public discussion about migration and the people affected by it.

All ten people who spoke at Monday’s MIG Talks event came to Sweden seeking protection from persecution in their home countries – and all ten discussed the challenges of dealing with different labels and assumptions in their new country.

“I feel like others always put me in a box – ‘gay’, ‘Syrian’, ‘refugee’ – and I’m always trying to climb out of those boxes,” said Logal Kako, a self-described literature buff who fell in love with the English language after reading Shakespeare.

'A different person'

Jihad Eshmawi, also from Syria, compared his boat ride over the Mediterranean to a funeral marking the end of a previous life, but which – in that moment – had no promise of an ‘afterlife’ of safety in Europe.

“I’m a totally different person now. Those seven days at sea changed my view of life,” he said. He was quick to add, however, that he could do without people’s sympathy.

“It’s not at all comforting to get sympathy. It feels belittling,” he added.

Meanwhile, Hewan from Eritrea described her horror and confusion about what Europe had to offer when she ended up in a prison in Greece, repeating the theme that she would never be the same person again.

“I’m a different person, but I’m a survivor. I carry on,” she said.

The discussion also touched on people’s experience in a new country and how they dealt with people in Sweden who had varying degrees of understanding about where they’d come from.

“I had someone ask me if we had trees in Syria,” said Perwin Mustafa, who now lives in Borlänge in central Sweden.

May Samhouri, also from Syria, told of debating with a friend who suggested May should no longer wear a headscarf now that she lived in Sweden, to which May responded that her participation in Swedish society had nothing to do with an item of clothing.

Logal chimed in on the theme of combining customs and traditions from more than one country.

“Sure, introduce me to the new culture, but don’t kill my old one,” he added.

Vist the MIG Talks website (in Sweden)

Visit MIG Talks on Facebook

Use the MIG Talks hashtag on Twitter: #MIGTalks

Editor's Note: The Local, through The Local Voices, is a participating partner in MIG Talks.

More Stories

Swede's Employment Minister Ylva Johansson, Foreign Minister Margot Wallström, and US Ambassador Azita Raji. Photo: US Embassy

How can refugee women make their mark in Sweden?

Swedish ministers, the US ambassador, and organizations promoting gender equality and refugee integration met in Stockholm last week to discuss the role of refugee women inin their host country. The Local Voices was there. READ
Cameras are due to be installed along all road crossings between the two countries after a trial run resulted in treble the amount of drug runs being busted. READ
Photographer Paul Hansen thanked his lucky stars for surviving sniper fire while covering the battle for the Isis-held city of Mosul in Iraq. READ
Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has visited Saudi Arabia a year and a half after relations turned frosty in a major diplomatic row. READ
Meet the web developer and entrepreneur using traditional Scottish ceilidh dancing to break the ice with Swedes. READ
Ratiba says living in Sweden will "give a new meaning" to her life.

Alienation in Sweden feels better: I find myself a stranger among scores of aliens

Ratiba Hanoush, 28, left Syria for Turkey in 2012 before arriving in Sweden last year. She admits that she still feels like an outsider, but explains why she is happier here than at home. READ
Paul Hansen, a photographer working for Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter, has sustained light injuries after being hit by what appears to be a sniper while covering the battle for the Isis-held city of Mosul in Iraq. READ
Hundreds of people on Saturday turned out for a torchlight procession in the small town of Trollhättan in southwestern Sweden to honour the victims of last year’s deadly school attack there. READ
Sweden's environment minister on Saturday urged the European Union to ban petrol and diesel-powered vehicles from 2030. READ
Hundreds of people on Saturday demonstrated in Stockholm and in many other parts of the country to protest Sweden’s tough new laws on asylum-seekers. READ
Justus and Emma

A layover at Qatar airport brought this Swedish-Kenyan couple together - now they're heading for marriage

Closeness, selflessness, and pleasure; falling in love is a strange but wonderful human experience. READ