Inhumane consequences of suggestions to alter asylum rights

The parliamentary committee that was appointed by the government in 2019 has presented its suggestions for new Swedish asylum legislation. The suggestions will increase the vulnerability of asylum seekers and LGBTQI people in need of protection, and other exposed groups in flight, says RFSL.

The suggestions lead to a direct and indirect deterioration of the basic rights of people who flee.

The committee has been tasked with producing a long-term sustainable migration policy that is humane, legally certain and effective. However, many of the suggestions in the report contravene the UN refugee agency UNHCR’s recommendations to Sweden (Recommendations to Sweden on strengthening refugee protection in Sweden, Europe and globally, May 2020, UNHCR). The asylum legislation suggested by the committee means that many parts of the temporary asylum legislation Sweden has had since 2016, which has been harshly criticised for its humanitarian consequences, would be prolonged and become permanent. The suggestions, directly and indirectly, lead to a deterioration of the basic rights of people who flee. Sweden risks ending up with asylum legislation that is significantly more restrictive than other EU countries’. UNHCR believes that countries should remove legal, financial and practical obstacles for family reunification and that people with subsidiary protection status should be given a secure and stable residence status. The migration committee’s suggestions create new obstacles for family reunification and lead, through the suggestion of temporary residence permits, to that the new domicile in Sweden becomes uncertain.

Suggestions for new legislation

Temporary residence permits become the norm.
New maintenance and language requirements for residence permits will be imposed.
The opportunity of family reunification is limited by requirements of maintenance and size of accommodation.
–So called “quick reunifications” (UtlL 5 kap. 3a § 1 st.) won’t be included in the rules about family reunification. If this group is excluded, it will be very hard for, for example, LGBTQI people to reunite in Sweden.

The consequences of the suggestions

Increased mental ill-health in asylum-seeking LGBTQI people

Temporary residence permits create human suffering. That people with subsidiary protection status aren’t guaranteed continued safety, that they don’t know if they will be deported to the existence from whence they fled, may lead to an increased risk of depression and PTSD. RFSL can confirm that the mental, and even physical, ill-health among asylum seekers has increased since the introduction of temporary instead of permanent residence permits in 2016, as well as because of the limitations in family reunification. Temporary residence permits complicate effective trauma treatment related to experiences in the country of origin or experiences during flight. Establishment in Swedish society becomes impeded and delayed. This is seconded by both reports and international research on the subject. Temporary residence permits are thus destructive both to individuals and society. In the case of LGBTQI people, the protected grounds (sexual orientation, gender identity and/or gender expression) are very seldom temporary. The persecution of, and attitudes towards, LGBTQI people, unlike armed conflicts, are unlikely to change over a few years.

Temporary residence permits are destructive to both individuals and society.

Discrimination toward LGBTQI people in family reunification

That there’s a suggestion to exclude so-called “quick reunifications” (UtlL 5 chapter 3a § 1 paragraph) from the rules of family reunification means that many LGBTQI people lose the right to reunite in Sweden. LGBTQI people who live together as families, for example, same-sex couples, have seldom had the opportunity to live together officially in their countries of origin, as LGBTQI people are being persecuted and their relationships are criminalised, which has been the reason for flight. RFSL views with concern that only people within the limited context of a “nuclear family” are suggested to be subject to the right to family reunification. In practice, it means that LGBTQI people are being discriminated against and that they lose the right to family reunification. Although LGBTQI people should have the same right to family reunification as other refugees and people with subsidiary protection, they will in practice be denied this right when they can’t show that they are married or have cohabitated; something that hasn’t been possible in countries that persecute and criminalise LGBTQI people.

Many LGBTQI people lose the right to family reunification in Sweden.

The breaking up of families causes immense suffering

Being able to live with one’s family is a basic need for the majority of people. Requirements of maintenance and accommodation to be allowed family reunification will lead to substantial suffering for a large number of parents and children who, for many years, won’t be able to live together. The high demands regarding maintenance are impossible to fulfil for many who wish to be reunited with their family. This drawn-out shattering of families that ensues leads to mental ill-health. The maintenance requirement sometimes leads to exploitation in the labour market, since many are willing to accept bad working-conditions if they believe that the work will increase their opportunity to reunite with their family. RFSL believes that each person’s right to their family should be unrestricted. The UN refugee agency UNHCR believes that legal, financial and practical obstacles for family reunification should be removed. The principle of the family’s unity was established for the first time in 1954 in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Since then the family’s right to protection has been confirmed in a number of conventions. Sweden might now become one of the countries in the EU where it is hardest to reunite with one’s family.

Requirements of maintenance and accommodation to be allowed family reunification will lead to substantial suffering for a large number of parents and children.

The seriously ill will be denied care

If temporary residence permits become the norm, people with temporary residence permits might be denied care if their residence permit expires before necessary care can be started or completed. According to the suggestion, permanent residence permits can only be granted after three years if the need for protection still exists, and the requirements of language skills, maintenance and way of life are fulfilled. If temporary residence permits become the norm there should at least be the opportunity of permanent residence permits in special circumstances. For example, when there’s a need for vital care.