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immigration

Foreign wives who face abuse can be deported

Published fredag 11 februari 2011 kl 10.00

Every year hundreds of women who have come to live in Sweden see their dream turn into a nightmare. Their Swedish husband turns out to be abusive - but if they want to stay in Sweden then they risk being deported from the country if they break off their relationship within two years.

Bernardita Nunez is the chair of the women's help group Terrafem. She says that the law, as it stands, supports violent, abusive, men.

"There is a law, here in Sweden, that gives these men total power over a woman. The woman is completely dependent on the man, and if she doesn't do what he wants, she risks being thrown out of the country."

The background is Sweden's immigration law, that if someone wants to come and live in Sweden based on a relationship with a Swede, then they will be refused permission to stay if if the relationship ends within two years.

There is protection - to try to stop people being trapped in violent relationships: if the person who is trying to get residency here ends their relationship because of violence or other attacks, then it is, in theory, possible to get an exception to the two-year rule.

But not all women who are the victim of violence will get residency permission from the authorities. The law says that a number of conditions must first be met.

For example, the relationship must have been a serious one, not been too short, and the violence must also have been serious.

Bernardita Nunez, at the Terrafem women's shelter, says that this leaves out a lot of women.

"Who decides what is a minor act of violence? And why should a women from a foreign country put up with any kind of violence at all? A Swedish woman can't even be called a whore, but a woman from another country has to put up with less serious violence. And if she doesn't accept that her husband hits her, she has to get back where she came from."

Around 500 women contact Sweden's women's help centres every year, saying that they are in this kind of situation.

The statistics from the Migration Board show that last year 27 of them were allowed to stay in Sweden and ten were refused.

According to the women's help centres this is just the tip of the iceberg, since many women do not dare to put their case to the test, since they are scared of being forced to leave the country.

Håkan Jonsson is a legal expert at the Migration Board.

He says that there are no clear criteria for what kind, or how much, violence is serious enough to be grounds for a residency permit, and that the decision can be an individual assessment.

Bernardita Nunez at Terrafem says that too many women have suffered for too long, and that it is time for a change.

"It has been 30 years of discussion, and we've seen some cosmetic changes, but no one has proposed abolishing the two years rule, or making a real change, that would mean that women with foreign backgrounds would also have proper protection."

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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