I was sitting alone at a bar, waiting for the concert time to arrive when I received the call from my colleague. It was after office hours, and it is really rare that someone from work calls you at that time, so I was really curious what he was going to say. After a short greeting, he came right to the point. I could feel that it wasn’t going to be any good news when he started his next sentence with a “Listen…” followed by a short pause. They had received a letter that afternoon from Swedish Migration Board, and it was telling that my work permit application was rejected, and I had to leave the country in four weeks.
I was speechless; I couldn’t find any quick words to disguise my shock. After eleven months of waiting for it, now the authorities were simply telling me to give up on everything I built up for seven years, and just leave.
It was almost 7 years ago when I took that flight from Istanbul to Stockholm, and jumped on a train that took me up north to a city called Sundsvall. Being my first trip abroad, I remember that I was extremely excited when I was watching the tall trees of Scandinavian landscape from the train window. I was moving there to study master’s in computer engineering, and I had fixed everything to stay in this lovely country for the next two years.
I was used to Migrationsverket (Swedish Migration Board) from the student years, but things got just more complicated when I decided to stay more for a job. As a main rule, a foreigner (i.e. non-EU citizen) who gets a job in Sweden has to be covered by a collective agreement (kollektivavtal) signed with a trade union, or the employer has to provide you with equal working conditions to collective agreement in terms of payment and insurances. While none of this is mandatory for hiring a Swedish citizen, it is a prerequisite if a company wants to hire a non-EU citizen. As unequal as it sounds, my employer at that time wrote down all the required insurances I was covered by in the application form. Things went quite smooth, and I got my very first work permit (arbetstillstånd) in April 2013.
Early in 2014, I decided to move to Stockholm to see what the new, booming European IT capital had to offer. I fell in love with the city; I finally had regained the freedom to lose myself in big crowds, in the traffic, and public transportation during rush hours. It was just a super-structured, a very neat Istanbul to my eyes. Needless to say, I had to revisit all the procedures of Migrationsverket once again, much earlier than two years (two years is how long a regular work permit is valid in Sweden), just because I changed employers within the first two years. This time it wasn’t that easy at all. I had to wait for 8 months before I forced my ways into Migrationsverket’s system to convince them to take look at my application. Well, when they did, I got my second work permit in July 2015.
In November 2015, it was time for me to move on to a new company. But this time, I was past first two years, so the whole Migrationsverket game could wait until spring. So in April 2016, I decided to start the procedure a bit earlier, being aware of the waiting times, and hoping I wouldn’t have to cancel all my plans for the summer. Ironically, I saw a new regulation posted to Migrationsverket’s website on the very same day I decided to apply. According to this new rule the employee (i.e. the applicant of work permit) was obliged to provide all the insurance papers and payslips from their previous and current employers.
Apparently, things had changed, and Migrationsverket decided to scan all my history. But the absurd part was that, it was me who had to provide all the documents, not my former employers, not insurance companies, not even Migrationsverket who already has all the records and okayed all my previous work permit applications in the past.
After a bit of a hassle of trying to understand what exactly I need to do, I managed to get all the papers together, and sent them through along with other documents. Seven months passed, and I got the first reply from my case officer, telling me to come up with missing insurance documents and my payslips from April 2016 to October 2016. Asking for additional documents was a good enough reason for Migrationsverket to postpone my application to March 2017. I was not able to do anything about it but wait.
That evening, I called my friend to cancel the concert plans. I couldn’t help rushing home with a terrible feeling in the stomach, just to take my copy of the decision from the mailbox and read it. I read it over and over again, every time with the weight on my shoulders getting heavier.
This would mean leaving my girlfriend, my friends, my apartment, my job, and everything else I had built up for the last seven years, and just go away.
The reason for deportation was hard to believe, it was unacceptable. According to Migrationsverket, my first employer bought the wrong type of insurances, my second employer was missing a couple of insurances, and my last employer had forgotten to register me in the insurance system for the first ten months.
I was being forced to leave Sweden solely because of the mistakes my employers did, the mistakes I had no idea about and no control over. Migrationsverket takes no responsibility for approving my previous work permits but rejecting the final one. No one, including the employers, is given the chance to correct the mistakes.
No penalty, no notification is received by any of the employers for these errors. The only one who is paying a fine, and it’s a huge one, is me. The person who just worked hard, paid taxes and tried to love everything around him.
While I am writing my story, it’s “Visa från Utanmyra” (Song from Utanmyra) by the Swedish jazz artist Jan Johansson playing in the background. This song always takes me back to the first time I saw those tall trees out of the train window in a dark, rainy, cold summer afternoon seven years ago. I just love too many things about this country, and I will fight for my rights. But it’s hard to keep yourself from asking the same question over and over again: “Why? Why do I have to leave my home?”