Young man shows a tattoo on his arm.
1 av 3
Ahmad Rahimi is active in the Young in Sweden network and got a new tattoo last week which says "Amnesty Now" in Swedish. Credit: Nathalie Rothschild / Radio Sweden
A sit-in protest on Medborgarplatsen.
2 av 3
The sit-in protest moved to Medborgarplatsen in the Stockholm district of Södermalm after it was attacked by far-right extremists. Credit: Nathalie Rothschild / Radio Sweden
Water, food, blankets at demonstration.
3 av 3
Members of the public have donated food, drink, blankets, money and more to support the Afghan migrants protesting in Stockholm. Credit: Nathalie Rothschild / Radio Sweden

Afghan asylum seekers vow to expand protest

Heléne Fritzon: I have faith in the Swedish system
4:16 min

As a sit-in protest organised by Afghan asylum seekers entered its eleventh day, Sweden's migration minister said deportations to Afghanistan will not be suspended.

The sit-in protest is organised by the Young in Sweden network. Their demonstration permit expires in a week but the protests have spread to other Swedish cities and to schools. Among those demonstrating in Stockholm is Ahmad Rahimi.

 “What’s most important for me now is Amnesty and that’s why I got this,” Rahimi says as he shows off a week-old tattoo with the words ‘Amnesty Now’ in Swedish printed across his forearm.

Rahimi came to Sweden as an unaccompanied minor during the big migration wave of 2015, he says. He believes the Swedish government should halt deportations to Afghanistan and grant Afghans who are in Sweden amnesty. And that is because of the double threat in Afghanistan from the Taliban and ISIS, says Rahimi.

"We hear about terror attacks and genocide in Afghanistan every day on the news. But we're not seeing the same from Syria or other countries right now," Rahimi insists, “and that's why Afghans in particular deserve an amnesty,” he argues.

Rahimi says Swedish politicians are turning their backs on young Afghan migrants like himself. However, several politicians have visited the sit-in protest in Stockholm, which changed locations after an attack from far-right extremists.

Among the politicians who have come to talk to the Afghan asylum seekers is Migration Minister Heléne Fritzon. On Wednesday, she told Swedish Radio that the government will not halt deportations to Afghanistan.

"I have faith in the order we have in Sweden, which has been determined by Parliament, where politicians make laws but authorities, in this case the Migration Agency, take decisions and try each individual case," Fritzon said.

On Tuesday afternoon, around 100 Afghans - nearly all of them male - were at the sit-in protest at the Medborgarplatsen square in the Stockholm district of Södermalm. By the evening, the number of protesters had tripled in size, with many there to show solidarity with the Afghans or to donate food and sleeping bags.

One of the volunteers, Heather Marshall-Heyman, told Radio Sweden that she is there as a private citizen and does not represent any organisation.

“They come to us with different questions or just to talk,” says Marshall-Heyman of the Afghan protesters. “And then, of course there’s the security thing, which we’re here for as well. We have no responsibility and there are very good police here but occasionally there will be somebody who will come along and be aggressive towards the youngsters.”

But not everyone supports the sit-in protest. Diane Rauscher, who lives near Medborgarplatsen, thinks the protest has gone on for too long and she claims many of the Afghans are lying about their age and aren't minors.

“Everyone has the opportunity to demonstrate in Sweden, but for how many weeks? They’ve made their point already,” says Rauscher.

Many others have complained, too, but as long as the protest stays calm and orderly, the police will not break it up, says Stockholm police spokesperson Lars Byström. That would mean violating the Swedish constitution, which protects freedom of assembly – a right that applies to non-citizens, too.

“This shows that the freedom to demonstrate and the freedom of assembly are strongly supported by our constitution,” Byström tells Radio Sweden.

The sit-in at Medborgarplatsen has been calm, says Byström but the police have filed daily reports of public-order violations since many of the Afghans are spending the nights at the square, even though the demonstration permit only allows them to be there between 8am and 10pm.

The permit expires in a week from today, but The Young in Sweden network now plans to take the protest to schools, encouraging pupils to organise sit-ins in classrooms as schools open up after the summer break.

In 2015, around 40,000 Afghans sought asylum in Sweden, a majority of them unaccompanied migrant youths. The Swedish Migration Agency approved around 45 percent of the applications. Among Sweden’s parliamentary parties, the Left Party and the Liberal Party have come out in favour of halting deportations to Afghanistan.

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
Du hittar dina sparade avsnitt i menyn under "Min lista".