Many escape war in Syria Photo: AP/Scanpix

Syrians with temporary asylum forced to live apart from their families

An increasing number of Syrians who come to Sweden could be forced to live apart from their families for a long time to come. For although almost all are granted asylum, only seven out of ten get a temporary residence permit for three years. But - they do not have the right to bring their relatives here reports Swedish Radio International.

Saadiya came to Sweden two months ago along with her son and ended up in a refugee camp outside of Östersund in the Jämtland region. Her two daughters and husband are still in Syria.

 "I don't know what I'm going to do now, " she says. "We have already used up all the money we had to come here."

Saadiya and her son are waiting to hear about their asylum status from the Swedish Migration Board. The odds are good she will get asylum, but for her and most others in her situation, there is a great difference between getting a permanent residence permit or a temporary one of three years.

Of those Syrians who received asylum in 2012, only 6 out of 10 received a temporary residence permit. This year, that number rose to more than 7 out of 10.

For Syrian refugees, the main difference between a permanent and a temporary permit is that the former allows them to bring their family over. With a temporary permit, this is next to impossible.

Fredrik Beijer,  Acting Director of Legal Affairs at the Swedish Migration Board says he understands this is hard for those who only have gotten a temporary residence permit.

"I understand their desire to have their family here with them. The problem is that we have to follow the rules on how to act in these situations."

According to the Migration Board's interpretation of laws and past court cases, a refugee's case must have both "compassionate" and "unusual" reasons for a permanent permit to be issued. Only a precedential ruling from the Migration Supreme Court can change the practice, says Beijer.

Sweden's Green Party, which has struck an agreement on migration with the centre-right government, thinks it should be possible for more families to reunite in Sweden. This can be done by granting more permanent permits and by making it easier for those who have temporary permits to be joined by their families.

The Greens' spokesperson on migration, Maria Ferm, says that all family members in Syria have valid grounds to be in Sweden since they are in a crisis situation, having fled the war in Syria.

But the government has no plans to change the rules regarding temporary permits. Migration Minister Tobias Billström thinks new rules would lead to disappointment for those on temporary permits who don't get them renewed.

He says, "the rules are written so that families do not come here only to have to leave if a renewal isn't granted. It would be both wrong and cruel to have it another way."

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