A voice for newcomers in Sweden

'Whenever I apply for jobs I’m treated like an unwanted stranger'

Published: 02.Sep.2016 15:48 hrs

Meet Roula al Naser, a 25-year-old accountant from Syria who arrived in Sweden on New Year’s Eve 2014, who wonders why, despite her qualifications, the only opportunity she had in Sweden is at a café.

I was the first of my family to leave Syria, and was filled with passion to build a new life away from war. After I re-settled in Sweden, I went through SFI and other advanced language courses, and finally mastered Swedish.

I participated in fast-track programmes, and worked in Wayne’s Coffee for four months. At the same time, I was always applying for jobs – and that for me became more than a habit. It became almost a biological necessity, just like drinking, or eating. I wished simply to get a reply – even a negative one – but this never happened.

Now I speak English, Swedish, and Arabic. I have a great deal of experience in accounting, something I studied at Damascus University for four years, and trained with the CEO of one of Syria’s largest medicine companies, Unipharma.

However, my humble – but not bad – expertise, couldn’t secure me a single answer from the hundreds of Swedish employers I’ve contacted throughout the last two years.


The question of why I can’t find a job in Sweden never flees my brain.

I don’t think it is competence, because that’s something I already possess. Maybe employers are seeking Swedes only, but I really have no idea.

Not giving people with experience a chance truly depresses them. I believe being a refugee with a doctorate degree shouldn't mean you get nothing more than position in a restaurant.

It’s not a shame to work wherever, but it’s not fair to ignore one’s expertise. If that happens, one’s competence can die.

My visits to the employment office are met mostly with disappointment; every time I turn to them seeking to improve my experience, they relentlessly suggest I contact a restaurant or a café. But that doesn’t fit me, and would seriously weaken my competence – which already feels like it’s sliding backwards.

I am attached to this country to a great extent, but whenever I apply for jobs I feel like I’m treated like an unwanted stranger.

Part of me says: employers might be uninterested, or they don’t take our university degrees seriously.

We could learn from each other

Open your doors, give us a chance and vet us. I deeply believe we have great brains that Sweden could take advantage of. We could learn from each other, and together have a great impact.

Nowadays, I live with a great Swedish family that shelters me while I try to find myself accommodation. Lodging is yet another hurdle in my ‘Swedish dream’, but it’s not as important right now as finding work.

At the same time, it’s important not to forget or disrespect the extraordinary treatment we Syrian refugees have received from Sweden – such a humane society – while so many others let us down so desperately.

However, that doesn’t mean I’m entitled to live opinion-less, or accept not being myself. I find myself through work and achievement, and through my struggles, I will be thanking and serving Sweden, day and night.
My work is my happiness. But now my life is on stand-by.

I see myself stuck in limbo. It’s all about waiting, and waiting is suffocating.

To anyone who now asks me what I’m doing, I simply answer:

I am waiting.

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

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