Iraq War and EU migration
When Sweden joined the Schengen co-operation in 2001, this meant open borders between the country and other European Union (EU) member states and an influx of other EU citizens into the country looking for work and love. Migration in total – both to and from Sweden – grew after 2000. Almost 29,000 people from countries outside of the EU and the European Economic Area (EEA) moved to Sweden for work during the 2000s.
Head of the press unit at the Swedish Migration Agency, Fredrik Bengtsson, says: ‘In Europe, Sweden is a key destination and recipient country for asylum seekers.’
Södertälje, a small town just south of Stockholm, is a case in point, and an extreme one at that. In 2007, the town accepted 1,268 Iraqis, which equalled 5 per cent of all Iraqis arriving in Europe or 1.5 per cent of the population of Södertälje. As a comparison, the US and Canada combined took in 1,027 Iraqis the same year.
Interestingly in 2011, more people emigrated from Sweden than in 1887, the peak year of emigration to the US. This time mostly to neighbouring Norway, Denmark and other European countries, but also to the US and China.
The five main reasons for migration to Sweden:
- To be with close family
People migrating to reunite with close family members remain one of the largest immigrant groups into the country. In 2014, over 40,000 people were granted permits to Sweden to come live with their families and close relatives, and the top nationalities represented were Syrians, Somalis and people with no state or country (stateless).
Sweden has signed the UN Refugee Convention, which means that the country has vowed to examine and grant asylum to people recognised as refugees according to the Convention. Most asylum seekers in 2014 came from Syria, Eritrea or were people with no state or country (stateless). The number of refugees coming to Sweden nearly tripled between 2010 (12,130) and 2014 (35,642).
- Work opportunities
Sweden’s booming start-up and technology industry means lots of foreign workers – especially in the IT field – are looking for lucrative job opportunities in the country. In 2012, roughly 20,000 work permits were granted, a peak year to date. The top three countries represented were Thailand, India and China. Read about working in Sweden at work.sweden.se.
Chinese students remain the largest group of migrants to Sweden who come to further their studies with roughly one-fifth of granted study permits in 2014, followed by Indian and American students. Read about studying in Sweden at studyinsweden.se.
Often called love refugees, these are immigrants who come to Sweden after falling in love with a Swede or Swedish resident while visiting Sweden, or meeting them abroad. They are usually grouped as ’migrating to be with close family’, but these set of immigrants are a distinct group in that their reason for migrating is often newly found love.
Video: Sirwan, war refugee
Quick facts about Sirwan:
- Age: 21 years
- From: The Kurdistan Region of Iraq
- Came to Sweden: In 2007, without parents
The film about Sirwan is a part of the project ‘Homestead – somewhere in Sweden’, by ROT produktion: nagonstansisverige.se.
Linda Samir Mutawi, love refugee
Meet 36-year-old Linda Samir Mutawi, a film producer and production manager. Originally Palestinian, she comes from Jordan where she grew up and her parents reside. With dual British–Jordanian citizenship, she moved to Sweden in 2013.
Every year, thousands of modern-day migrants move to Sweden to be with their partners. Linda is one of them. ‘My Swedish husband and I met at the Cannes Film Festival back in 2011 during a work reception,’ Linda says.
By the time they started a relationship and got married, her husband was the one with the more stable work situation. So they decided it made more sense for Linda to move to Sweden. ‘And with everything going on in the Middle East politically and economically, we felt it was the right choice for us that I make the move,’ she adds.
Transitioning to a new country is always challenging, especially during the first year. ‘I knew I had to start over in a foreign country with a foreign language. I had to find work, find friends, and make a home for myself,’ explains Linda, whose Swedish is still quite limited. She recently started studying Swedish for immigrants, language courses offered for free by municipalities.
‘(But) I always thought Stockholm was one of the prettiest cities I have been to. The challenges that we face back home on a daily basis are not really present here,’ she adds.
She points to the fact that Sweden has an organised and modern system that works. But she was initially worried that the ‘lack of spontaneity, the serious societal rule following, and the conventionality of life here’ would be a bit too calm for her, coming from ‘a more expressive culture’.
Considering she’s been in Sweden for a relatively short time, Linda feels she has integrated quite well into society and this is mostly due to the fact that she has family and friends here. Her husband and his family and friends are mostly Swedish, and she already had a few Swedish friends prior to moving.
‘I love the fact that there is such a work–life balance, and the system is so efficient.’
‘I have also lived in Europe and the Middle East and have travelled and lived in a number of countries, so I adapt easily to new environments and new people,’ Linda points out. ‘Swedes are also quite welcoming. I have found them to be very warm and open to me, which of course is essential to feeling accepted into your new community.’
She believes Sweden sets a good example of accepting refugees, which in turn leads to a large influx of foreigners in search of a higher quality of life, something Sweden is widely known for. But the integration issues need to be tackled in a more effective way, she adds.
Linda looks forward to exploring the rest of the country and learning as much as she can about her new adoptive home. ‘I love living in a city that inspires you at every turn; there’s so much history and culture in the city and always new things to explore,’ she adds. ‘I love the fact that there is such a work–life balance, and the system is so efficient.’
‘I have had my moments,’ adds Linda, ‘but overall I have been very happy here.’
Linda Samir Mutawi was interviewed by Lola Akinmade Åkerström.