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Swedish nun provides sanctuary for refugee families

Published torsdag 27 april kl 14.26
Sister Karin: Many families are living in cellars.
(5:13 min)
Sister Karin Johansson in the living room she shares with refugees at Alsike Kloster.
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Sister Karin Johansson in the living room that she shares with refugees at Alsike Kloster. Credit: Richard Orange/Radio Sweden
"Alsike Kloster is a sanctuary for refugees in need," reads a sign outside.
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"Alsike Kloster is a sanctuary for refugees in need," reads a sign outside. Credit: Richard Orange/Radio Sweden

Sister Karin Johansson has been sheltering refugees at Alsike Kloster, a convent near Uppsala, since 1983. She is concerned that new government measures will force countless families into hiding.

"Of course some of them are really, really scared," she told Radio Sweden. "Already now, I heard of many families who are living very barely in cellars and so on. Even if the children have the right to go to school, they don't dare nowadays."

Marianne Nordström, the convent's founder, was the Church of Sweden's first nun since the reformation when she took her vows in 1954. She started Alsike Kloster in an old parish schoolhouse ten years later.  

At Alsike, Sister Karin says that the residents feel safe.

She is confident that the police will not raid the premises as they did during Sweden's last refugee crisis in 1993, out of a desire not to repeat the damning international headlines that raid generated. 

But Sweden's current drive to deport up to 80,000 rejected asylum seekers has forced the country's border police to ask municipalities, social service departments, and other agencies to report on anyone that they have contact with who does not have permission to live in Sweden.

Sister Karin says that rather than try to hunt rejected asylum seekers down, the authorities should seek to find other solutions to the problem.   

"If this big amount of people are going to be rejected in the coming years, then we are going to have a big amount of people living in hiding, and that's not good for society either," she 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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