Sweden Steps Up Deportation

Asylum Is Hard to Find

Swedish police escort migrants off of a train arriving from Denmark, November 2015. Reuters

Nearly two years ago, on November 24, 2015, Asa Romson, then Sweden’s deputy prime minister, struggled to hold back tears as she announced the reversal of her country’s open-door migration policy. Just weeks ago, Abbas, an 18-year-old Afghan refugee, struggled to hold back tears as he told me about his upcoming deportation to Kabul—a place that the Swedish Migration Agency, which oversees asylum cases, has deemed safe.

In a confounding turn of events, Abbas’ older brother, Ali (the only immediate family he has left), was granted asylum in Sweden six years ago. Yet Abbas, who arrived in 2015, will have to leave. He will be flown to Kabul on September 7. Abbas grew up in Ghazni, a city almost 100 miles south of Kabul, and has only spent a little time in the capital, when he lived with an uncle after the death of his mother six years ago. Now he says he has lost contact with his uncle and knows no one in Kabul. “I have no relatives there, so I [will] have to stay on the streets,” he said. 

Having no explanation for his deportation, he says only that he’s done nothing wrong. “When you’re under 18, you can’t tell the Migration Agency what happens,” he said. “You’re too young to understand the system. You don’t know your rights.” 

Abbas has exhausted the legal process in an attempt to avoid being sent back. He has appealed his rejection three times, receiving his final rejection last May. On June 13, his eighteenth birthday, he packed his things and moved from a youth housing center in Molndal, near the city of Gothenburg, to live with his brother in Hisingen, where he will stay until his flight to Kabul. For asylum seekers, finding refuge in Sweden is now more difficult than ever.  


At the height of the European migrant crisis, in 2015, almost 163,000 refugees arrived in Sweden, more than 35,000 of whom were unaccompanied minors. The inflow made this Scandinavian country

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