The case of Cihat Karahan, known to friends as Gino, is the latest evidence that foreign professionals are still being deported from the country over administrative errors despite repeated attempts to stop such incidents.
“No person should have to go through what I'm going through right now. It's awful that they can deport someone on these grounds and ignore the fact that you've created an honest life in Sweden with a wife and newborn baby,” Karahan told The Local.
“It feels as if you've been erased from Swedish society and never existed. Everything you've built up in Sweden, means nothing. I feel exploited,” he continued. “It's affected my family a lot, especially my wife who was heavily pregnant and experienced several complications with her health. She was forced to take leave of absence from work due to sickness because of mental and physical exhaustion.”
Karahan, a Turkish Kurd, first moved to Sweden in 2002 as a political refugee and since then has put down roots in the country, where he has a home, a job, a wife and now a two-week-old baby. He currently lives in Stockholm, where he has worked in restaurants, and also spent time working in a shop in Grisslehamn, a town on the outskirts of the Stockholm region.
In October 2017, over a year after applying for permanent residence, he was told by the Swedish Migration Agency (Migrationsverket) that his application had been rejected and he needed to leave the country within four weeks.
The reason was that he had not been paid holiday supplement (semesterersättning) for a period between 2014 and 2016. “The strange thing is that I didn't get the holiday supplement from 2012, but Migrationsverket still chose to extend my work permit then,” Karahan notes.
Well aware of the bureaucracy facing foreign workers and the risk of deportation, Karahan says he had been especially careful to ensure his contract fitted in with rules around salary, vacation allowance, and insurance. After receiving the first rejection from Migrationsverket, his employer adjusted his contract in order to pay the supplement, but it made no difference and the agency confirmed the deportation decision.
“They didn't take into consideration that I have established myself in Sweden by working, paying tax, learning the Swedish language and integrated into Swedish culture,” he said. “My lawyer and I appealed twice and both times I got a rejection, despite saying in my appeal that my sambo and I were expecting a child.”
After laws about work permits were tightened and came to apply retroactively, the Migration Agency began judging such cases more strictly, and the number of permit rejections rose dramatically.
Last year, legislation was passed which meant permits should not be rejected if a mistake had been noticed and action taken to correct it before it was pointed out by the Migration Agency – but the complicated nature of the paperwork means that often employers and workers believe they have followed the process correctly and only learn of the mistake when the permit is rejected.
However, judgments from the Migration Supreme Court have also set a precedent that decisions should be based on an overall assessment of factors, meaning that one minor mistake should not derail an otherwise good application.
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Karahan's final rejection came in late July this year, and cannot be appealed again.
He has a flight to Turkey booked for the end of November but is trying one more route: he hopes that the Migration Agency will change its decision based on his new family circumstances, namely the birth of his son, a Swedish citizen.
“We live in hope that Migrationsverket will change its decision so I can be with my family in Sweden,” he told The Local. “The worst-case scenario is that I'm forced to leave the country on November 30th and won't be able to see my wife and newborn son for an indefinite period of time.”
So far, a petition calling for Karahan's deportation order to be stopped has amassed more than 5,000 signatures.
“It is completely absurd that Gino will be deported on these grounds. Do it again, do it properly!” wrote one supporter.
“I'm signing because one of my students came close to losing his father for the exact same reason as Gino. And it's totally sick that a person can be judged for something they didn't do, it's obviously the employer which made a mistake,” another commented.
Others described the decision as “unfair”, “shameful” and even “inhumane”.