Union: needed skills will go to waste if new refugee law is passed
Many highly qualified immigrants to Sweden have to settle for a job that is below their education level, and a proposed new law may make this problem worse.
Ursula Berge is the head of social policy at white collar union Akademikerförbundet SSR, which organises around 67,000 people in Sweden, including economists and social science consultants.
Her union is one of the stakeholders being consulted about the government's proposed asylum law.
The law aims to reduce the amount of people coming to Sweden, and would make most residence permits temporary at first, becoming permanent only if the refugee got a job.
"I think this is one of the worst proposals I have seen," she tells Radio Sweden.
"We have a history in Sweden where a lot of people who come from other countries don't get a job in the area in which they are educated. But with this proposal it almost becomes legislated that academics are not supposed to work as academics."
The year-long residence permit or "tillfälligt uppehållstillstånd" will not allow refugee doctors, nurses and teachers adequate time to get their qualifications validated and carry out appropriate internships needed to get hired by Swedish schools or hospitals.
She says the drive to get any job will see highly-qualified refugees competing for entry-level jobs, putting pressure on those who really need those jobs.
The government's proposals to reduce the amount of people coming into Sweden was put forth in November amid claims that Sweden was facing a crisis due to thousands of asylum seekers applying every week.
In the Swedish system, government bills are sent for consultation to make sure that they have had input from stakeholders, and that they reflect the needs of people working on the areas affected. But Ursula Berge thinks it likely that this bill will be voted through by a supportive parliament despite an uproar from legal, human rights and union stakeholders.
"It's so untraditional. In Sweden we are interested in hearing what various NGOs think about government bills, in order to get the government bills as good as possible, before they go into parliament. But this issue about asylum seekers and refugees is so infected by the European and the Swedish debate that people can't really think clearly about it. It's just panic."
Radio Sweden asked the employment minister, responsible for integration and work, to comment, but were told that Social Democrat Ylva Johansson did not have time on Wednesday.