The demand for amnesty for so-called ‘illegal’ immigrants was the dominant political issue in Sweden in September. We publish below three articles on the issue. The first is by Per-Åke Westerlund, giving a summary of the campaign by immigrants and their supporters. This is followed by an ‘open letter’ to Sweden’s MPs and then an analysis of the refugee crisis. Both articles are by Elin Gauffin, from Offensiev, weekly paper of Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna (RS – the cwi in Sweden).
Strong support for refugees’ amnesty campaign
In April, a majority of the Swedish parliament refused to grant amnesty for sick refugee children. Up to 400 children are diagnosed as seriously ill, with most of them in a coma condition. They would die without health care. The decision by the parliament to deport the children provoked outrage amongst Swedish workers and youth. In July, the government decided that one of these children could stay, as a response to the protests. This was supposed to act as new guidelines for the authorities. Meanwhile, however, deportations of other refugees continued, including a pregnant woman, and one 80 year old and seriously ill woman. The demand for a general amnesty for immigrants became stronger, including support from churches and 5 parties in parliament. The other two parties, the social democrats and the conservative ‘moderates’, however, hold a majority in parliament. Despite demonstrations in 30 cities and towns, on 10 September, parliament voted down the demand for amnesty, on 14 September.
In parallel negotiations over the state budget, between the social democratic government and its support parties, the Left Party and the Greens, the government was forced to make some concessions. This was despite the fact that the Left Party (former Communist Party), in particular, did not really push for the demand for amnesty in these negotiations. The Left Party lost support among activists and refugees because they prioritised cooperation with the government instead of amnesty.
The outcome, based on the protest movement, was that families with children living underground would get a new right to appeal next year. This was actually a major concession compared with the position of the government in the spring.
Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna (RS, CWI Sweden) has participated fully in this movement. The campaign network, Flyktingamnesti 2005 (Refugee Amnesty 2005), had a limited active core, but a broad general support. RS campaigned for the demonstrations, and was the main organiser in five of them. At the same time, we organised our own petition and public activities. RS was the only openly socialist force in the campaign. We explained the role of capitalism in forcing people to become refugees, through wars, exploitation and oppression. We also stressed the role of amnesty, in giving immigrants the right to education, health care and jobs with union contracts. In this way, we tried to get unions involved in the campaign. Over the last months, our weekly paper, Offensiv, carried articles on the situation for refugees, and what to do, than any other paper in the country. In mid-September, the most prominent case we campaigning for, the case of Shaida Kurbanova and her family, were granted asylum.
25,000 signatures for amnesty
25,502 people signed Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna’s petition demanding amnesty for refugees and reinstatement of the right to asylum.
Elin Gauffin, Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna (cwi Sweden)
The petition was given to Migration Minister, Barbro Holmberg, on 12 September. The same day RS sent a public letter to every MP, particularly the MPs from the Left Party and the Greens.
“Today, 12 September, Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna delivers petitions with 25,502 signatures to Barbro Holmberg.
The demands on the petition are:
- Let the refugee children stay. Amnesty for ill children, asylum-seekers and refugees living ‘underground’. Restore the right to asylum.
- Everyone’s must have a right to health care and economic assistance when needed. Massive input of resources in health care.
- Stop racism. Work, housing and working conditions according to union rules for everyone.
- For a mass struggle against racist parties and against established parties Stop the state attempting to criminalise immigrants. Stop the Liberal party’s proposal for deportations.
This petition has been used five months. The issue of sick children has upset many people, who find it appalling that seriously ill children are deported from Sweden. Eight out of fourteen cases of seriously sick children handled by the authorities since the government’s decision in July were denied asylum. This shows how indifferent the government is to these children’s destiny.
Biggest rank and file movement
Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna participates with 110 other organisations in the network, Flyktingamnesti 2005, which organised Saturday’s demonstrations. On that day, some of those forced to live underground dared to come out and were met by wholehearted solidarity. In total, 20,000 people demonstrated in 30 cities and towns.
The Social Democracy and the ‘Moderates’ have absolutely no answer to what will happen of these people don’t get amnesty. They want employers to keep exploiting their labour for 10 kronor (1 euro) an hour.
Our petition links the demand for amnesty with demands for the right to asylum to be restored. If today’s brutal judgements, which denies asylum for nine out of then applications, are not changed, people in this country will be forced to hide to save their lives.
With demands for jobs, health care, housing and working conditions, according to union regulations, we will campaign against racist parties which aim to pit different groups of workers against each other. We will also fight employers who use racist discrimination for the same purpose.
Sweden is richer than ever. But its MPs are responsible for policies that ensure record profits for the big companies – 25 companies made a profit this year of 300 billion kronor (35bn euro) – while people who run from war and oppression are denied asylum, with the argument that the country “can’t afford it”.
The support RS received for its petition shows that a growing number of people see through the hypocrisy. A movement of solidarity and anti-racism is growing, and it will not disappear after the vote in parliament. The movement will closely record how every MP is voting. We call upon those who consider themselves elected by the people to vote in the interest of the people on 14 September; for amnesty for refugees forced to live underground and for asylum seekers."
14 out of 25 children go No
The struggle for the rights of refugees must continue.
Elin Gauffin, Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna (cwi Sweden)
After the agreement between the Social Democratic government, the Left Party, and the Greens to give families living underground a new right of appeal with the aim to allow them to stay, one seriously ill girl with her refugee family were deported.
Last week, Sabina, and her Roma family, Rasidova-Asani, from Macedonia were denied the right to stay in Sweden, despite her father having been beaten up and the 15-year old girl and her mother raped were not enough reasons for the Swedish state to grant asylum. They were deported on 20 September. Police at the airport in Macedonia immediately arrested the father. Two days later the Swedish daily paper, GöteborgsPosten, reported the mother and two children were sleeping in a city dump.
Since new July guidelines from the Swedish government – saying that the most ill children should be allowed to stay – 14 out of 25 children were denied asylum.
‘Business as usual’
According to migration authorities and Minister, Barbro Holmberg, it is ‘business as usual’. On 26 September, the Stockholm branch of the network for amnesty agreed on a resolution demanding an immediate stop to all deportations, including concerning those refugees the police are hunting. This is an emergency!
The network’s meeting in Stockholm was well attended and the general appraisal was that concessions got from the government shows that struggle gets results and encourages the campaign. In line with this, the meeting decided to go for a new demonstration in February, preferably across the whole country. The pressure on the government has to be kept up.
One key issue for the campaign is the right to health care for refugees. Sweden stands alone amongst EU countries in not allowing refugees without papers public health care. This will now change, but still many refugees will be left without health care.
The struggle for amnesty is about giving the most oppressed the right to a new beginning. Continued campaigning for the right to asylum is needed, as well as action in individual cases. Today’s racist system must be ended!