Sweden and the West is still closed to Syria’s refugees


To much fanfare yesterday Sweden announced it would offer permanent residency to refugees from Syria in Sweden. That covers 16,000 Syrians and their families. 2 million Syrians are currently displaced out of a population of 20 million ravaged by civil war. Great.

Due to the current situation in Syria, a decision has been made by the Swedish Migration Board. This decision means that as a Syrian citizen or stateless person who has a temporary Swedish residence permit, you may apply for a permanent residence permit.


If the Swedish Migration Board grants you a permanent residence permit, your family may also be given permission to move here.Primarily, your immediate family (husband, wife, partner and children under 18 years of age) may be given residence permits in Sweden. Read more in the links below. For your family member to receive a decision as quickly as possible, apply onlineopens in new window.

This is an beefing up of a policy launched last year which offered some Syrian’s only temporary residence. Given the situation in Syria I’m pleased that Sweden has decided it would be immoral to deport people there. Presumably it’s quite difficult to even find willing pilots now.

The policy impacts the tiny number of people who have managed to make it from Syria to Sweden. There are 2 million people who are not so lucky, the internally displaced or camp dwellers of Turkey, Jordan and other Syrian border states. This policy, and others like it to be announced imminently worldwide,  will only help the very luckiest Syrians in the world. It’s another example of progressive politics helping those who don’t really need it.

Don’t think that this applies to all Syrians. That would be an insane policy for Sweden to unilaterally announce, even an extremist like me can see that. This only applies to those already there. The embassies of Turkey and Jordan are open for the application of residency permits, but you can only apply for asylum in Sweden itself. Good luck to those who have lost anything stumping up the airfare. Good luck getting the visa!

On the other hand, substantial funding is being provided for refugee camps. Up to June this year the UK had spent £50m on supporting refugee camps in other more generous countries surrounding Syria. Sounds like a lot of money, but when you consider each cruise missile launched costs about £1.5m the figures rapidly pale.

There is a lot of money available for war. Penniless refugees who make it to the west will be begrudgingly supported. But there is still not nearly enough support being offered. Just giving money and logistical support to refugee camps would be incredible. The amount were planning to spend on missiles could feed and clothe millions.

Instead of gesture politics for the few Syrian here we need a proper resettlement plan. Instead of peanuts, refugee camps need proper investment in infrastructure, public health and education. The UK has, to its eternal shame, forced Syrians in the UK to return to a civil war. Only a few weeks ago I was being told by a friend about a surreal deportation going away party they were having for a Syrian friend.

There are so many small, important, humane things that could be done to support the Syrian people that aren’t being done. Some people complained that seeing Labour MPs celebrating the government’s defeat at last weeks vote showed that politics is broken. Politics isn’t broken because the Labour party acted ungraciously, it’s broken because “doing something to help foreigners” means bombing them, not supporting them.