OP-ED in the Swedish Daily News (Svenska Dagbladet) | Part 3 about harassment in accommodations for asylum seekers

Christian asylum seekers should be safe in Sweden

After an extended email correspondence the Swedish Migration Agency invites me to apply for permission to run an accommodation for asylum seekers. It is, however, up to the Agency to decide who will be staying there. It is like a lottery; the Agency does not place people according to religion, ethnicity or nationality.

The Church of Sweden says it doesn’t want to help, neither financially nor in any other way. But they suggest that I speak to one of their churches. I speak to five churches, choosing them for having housing for asylum seekers near by.

One of them has not heard about harassment of Christian asylum seekers. Another has had churchgoers “alleging such things”. Three churches have helped Christian asylum seekers to get away from the accommodations. “Church members have taken the initiative; church leadership has not been involved.”

However, several people, a farm owner, leaseholders of residential study centers, and owners of hotels and hostels have offered to help me. The authorities claim that all of Sweden has been vacuumed for accommodations, and that there aren’t any left. This is obviously not correct.

I have received emails, text and Facebook messages from people who want to volunteer; among others three retired Swedish teachers, one educator and one psychologist. Someone comments: “In the 1990s things looked different in Sweden; then there were accommodations for Jewish asylum seekers. I worked in a Jewish refugee camp with asylum seekers from the former Soviet Union, as ‘our’ asylum seekers were treated badly in other camps. I’d be happy to help if you open one.”

Svenska Evangeliska Alliansen (SEA, Swedish Evangelical Alliance) has started a fundraising in order to realize an accommodation for Christian asylum seekers.

For months now, I have known about a family in a major accommodation for asylum seekers in Sörmland. Of ten Christian families there are only two left. The others have arranged their own housing (EBO, eget boende). “They work illegally for about SEK 5 000 a month. Several of the family members have to work, in order to afford the extremely expensive unlawful subtenancy”, says one of the people still in the accommodation. He, a well-known artist in his homeland Syria, says that he is too old and weak to move. He stresses that things have become better at their place after a change of staff. “Now the trouble makers respect the staff, they are guys from Syria and Iraq. Before the employees were afraid of the extremists, and it affected everyone, Christians as well as Muslims suffered — but Christians most of all.”

One of the people who have fled from the accommodation gets in touch: “Please, my child and me, we work around the clock in order to pay for our apartment; when can we move to your place?” I ask the Swedish Migration Agency whether those who have chosen EBO are entitled to help with the rent. They can only help those who have been offered jobs and if the Agency cannot offer housing: “If you have been offered a job or begun working, you can apply for housing allowance. It is applicable if the period of employment is longer than three months and if you need to move to a town where the Migration Agency cannot offer housing.”

The people who would want to move to accommodations for Christians and other vulnerable persons are those who stay in housing provided by the Migration Agency and have been harassed, threatened or assaulted because of their faith, or fear that it could happen. Asylum seekers who have fled from places where they were exposed to such treatment now live in various EBOs at high cost.

Unfortunately at this time, it is necessary to open special housing for Christian asylum seekers, and that is why I am determined to see to that it happens. Furthermore, I am thinking of reporting the Migration Agency to the Equality Ombudsman; the present situation ought to be examined under the Discrimination Act.

Translated from Swedish by Agneta Wirberg

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