A voice for newcomers in Sweden

Swedish-only letters leave refugees frustrated


Published: 08.Nov.2013 14:37 hrs

Refugees in northern Sweden want the Migration Board to start writing letters in English instead of only Swedish - a language the new arrivals have yet to learn.

Refugees who have recently arrived at for placement at the Frösö holiday camp ground in northern Sweden have been flummoxed upon receiving summons to the Migration Board (Migrationsverket) written in a language they don't understand.

"It doesn't feel good," Kiflou Shishai, who hails from Eritrea, told the local nstidningen Östersund (LT) newspaper"The big problem here is that everything is in Swedish. We don't understand the information. We haven't even started learning Swedish yet, so it would have been an advantage if it came in English, so we could understand."

When the refugees moved into the camp, which houses mostly Syrians but also many Eritreans, they were given information in their own language about migration policy and living in the Migration Board's housing facilities, which at the campsite consist of both temporary accommodation and apartments.

While the head of the Migration Board in the area could not comment on whether a change will be made, she explained that the board is investigating the matter.

"The migration board simply does it this way, but we are looking into it and hoping for a change," Ulrika Nyberg, head of the Migration Board in Jämtland County, told The Local.

The agency's summons are sent out to refugees to inform them of appointments scheduled with migration officials. But recipients of the letters have also been pouring in for unscheduled visits in hopes of getting their letters translated.

"When they come in, we explain what the summons means in English, and if they don't speak English then we organize an interpreter. But I would say that at least 90 percent of the summons we send result in the person showing up," Nyberg said.

Eritrean Shishai, who came to Sweden six weeks ago, thinks the information should simply be in English, and told the local paper that "it doesn't feel good to have to ask" for help so many times.

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