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Sweden Opens Doors for Iraqi and Afghan Refugees

StoryDecember 09, 2008
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Sweden is home to more Iraqi refugees than other European countries. The nation has also let in many Afghan refugees. We speak to Faisal Enayat Khan. He is a reporter for the Swedish newspaper The Local. Originally from Afghanistan, he is in Sweden after being granted asylum. [includes rush transcript]

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to turn right now for the final segment of today’s show in Stockholm to Faisal Khan. He is a reporter here in Sweden. He is originally from Afghanistan. He applied for political refugee status. And political refugees in Sweden, in fact, they’ve taken in more refugees per capita than most places in the world. There is a place in Sweden, a city, that has taken in thousands of Iraqi refugees, called Sodertalje. Is that right, Faisal Khan?

FAISAL ENAYAT KHAN: Exactly, Sodertalje is the mecca of the Iraqis now.

AMY GOODMAN: In fact, the mayor of Sodertalje went to Washington, to Congress, to testify. Sweden has taken in, with its small population, thousands upon thousands more Iraqi refugees than the United States has.

FAISAL ENAYAT KHAN: Yeah, exactly. I remember that. And that’s true. Sweden is a very, very popular destination for Iraqi refugees.


FAISAL ENAYAT KHAN: Well, for a lot of different reasons, number one, that they all — they have been — the Iraqis have been here in Sweden since 1984. And if you look into the statistics, since 1984, around like almost 100,000 Iraqis, they have applied for asylum. And after the collapse of the Saddam regime, it increased dramatically. And, of course, Iraqis and all the other people coming from the Asian countries, they would rather go to places that they already have a network, a social network, and they have built a strong social network here in Stockholm in the town of Sodertalje, and that’s why they’re coming here. And also, we shouldn’t forget the fact that Sweden had been very generous in granting political asylum to refugees, which they are now thinking over this.

AMY GOODMAN: When did you apply for political asylum yourself?

FAISAL ENAYAT KHAN: It was around the first months of — it was, I think, April 2004, so —-

AMY GOODMAN: In the midst of the US war in Afghanistan.

FAISAL ENAYAT KHAN: Yeah, exactly.

AMY GOODMAN: You said the policy is changing, though, now.

FAISAL ENAYAT KHAN: Yeah, the policy right now, the Swedish parliament, they voted for a new legislation, which enables people from countries other than the EU to apply for -—

AMY GOODMAN: The European Union.

FAISAL ENAYAT KHAN: Yeah, the European Union — to apply for work permits. And that gives a signal to me that the Swedish government, they are trying to make this immigration process a little bit easier for themselves. Of course, when people are coming from the war zones, they don’t have — most of them, they don’t have the ability to make a living for themselves, learn the language and integrate into the society as everybody wishes. But now, with a change of policy that we would rather have people who would come to Sweden and start working, I guess that would make the life of the Swedish government quite a lot easier. They would be supporting themselves. They would have to learn the language by themselves. And basically, the Swedish government wouldn’t have to pamper them.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you very much, Faisal Khan, for joining us. I’m sorry we don’t have more time. Faisal Khan writes for, Sweden’s news in English. It is online.

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