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may be treated as "quota refugees"

Afghan interpreters may get asylum in Sweden

Updated torsdag 18 juli 2013 kl 14.24
Published torsdag 18 juli 2013 kl 09.47
Photo: Interpreters who are in danger may be treated as "UN refugees". Photo: Scanpix. Montage: Swedish Radio.

Interpreters who worked for the Swedish troops in Afghanistan, and are in danger, may be able to get asylum in Sweden, according to Swedish Radio News. However, Pål Wrang, a law professor at Stockholm University, tells Radio Sweden that this seems to be an attempt to find a solution within the current system, rather than creating a special refugee category for interpreters.

Wrang speculates this has to do with not setting a precedent, that the government doesn't want to give the impression that everyone who works for the Swedish peacekeeping troups will automatically get residency in Sweden.

Sweden has had a military presence in Afghanistan since 2006, but this will end next summer. What's to become of the 30 interpreters that have helped the Swedish soldiers in Afghanistan over the last several years has been a sensitive issue. Last year, the Migration Minister, Tobias Billström refused to grant special treatment for interpreters working for the Swedish armed forces.

Many of them have already sought asylum as a group, to which Sweden has previously said no, that asylum must be sought once a person has already arrived in Sweden.

Now, a working group consisting of the Swedish Migration Board, the Swedish Armed Forces, the Foreign Ministry and others have proposed that interpreters who live under threat in Afghanistan, because they helped Swedish soldiers, may come to Sweden as "quota refugees", in other words, as refugees that Sweden takes in every year to fill its quota from the UN.

By treating the interpreters as UN refugees, the Swedish authorities would make the decision of whether the interpreter's situation merits asylum before he or she leaves Afghanistan, and the person would be granted a residency permit before coming to Sweden.

Fredrik Bengtsson, head of press at the Swedish Migration Board, tells Swedish Radio News that if these people can't be transferred to another post or offered other opportunities in Afghanistan, because of safety reasons, they will get the chance to get sanctuary in Sweden.

Zabiullah Rashidi served as an interpreter for Swedish troops in northern Afghanistan for three years. Afterwards, he became a journalist, writing about the Taliban and corruption, but when death threats started raining down, he fled to Sweden, where he got asylum.

He welcomes the agreement that the government and the authorities have come to, telling Radio Sweden he is glad for the sake of the interpreters. It's a very good suggestion for helping them, he says.

Rashidi goes on to say that the situation of the interpreters would get worse if they stay in Afghanistan after the Swedish troops leave next summer.

When Swedish soldiers leave Afghanistan, and if the Taliban comes back to power, the interpreters' lives will be in danger. Everyone knows who they are, he says.

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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