Swedish terrorism expert Magnus Ranstorp recently warned Sweden against taking back not only ISIS terrorists, but also their wives and children, who he said also pose a security risk: "Some of them have learned how to kill... their identities will forever be linked to their time with ISIS..." (Image source: Victoria Henriksson/Wikimedia Commons)
Sweden's new government, which was finally formed in January after months of delay, is introducing policies that will lead to more immigration into Sweden -- despite the main governing party, the Social Democrats, having run for office on a promise to tighten immigration policies.
The right to family reunion for those people granted asylum in Sweden who do not have refugee status is being reintroduced -- a measure that is estimated to bring at least 8,400 more immigrants to Sweden in the coming three years. According to the Minister of Migration, Morgan Johansson, this measure will "strengthen integration," although he has not explained how.
"I think it is a very good humanitarian measure; 90 percent [of those expected to come] are women and children who have lived for a long time in refugee camps, [and] who can now be reunited with their father or husband in Sweden", Johansson said. He was probably referring to the fact that most of the migrants who arrived in the past couple of years were young males, who had left their wives and children behind. The measure also entitles so-called "unaccompanied children" to bring their parents to Sweden. Many of these "unaccompanied children" turned out to be adults, not minors. (The dentist who contributed to exposing this inconsequential detail was subsequently fired).
Johansson also said that the government plans to extend the right to remain in Sweden by introducing "new humanitarian grounds for protection." This means that people who would otherwise not be eligible for a residence permit, will now be able to acquire it for the following reasons, according to Johansson:
"For very sensitive cases, there must be an opportunity to increase the options for acquiring residence permits. It may be cases where people are very sick, fragile or very vulnerable, for example. It is a very small group and a very small part of the total asylum policy. There have been a number of striking cases where one does not feel that this has worked well from a purely humanitarian point of view... There must be room for humanity and a humanitarian approach, even in these times. I think this is important".
Mehdi Shokr Khoda, a gay 19-year old Iranian man who converted to Christianity in Sweden after he had fled to Stockholm from Iran in 2017, probably wishes that Swedish authorities would apply their "humanitarian approach" to his particular case. He and his partner, an Italian resident of Sweden, are fighting for Mehdi to not be deported back to Iran, after the Swedish migration authorities rejected his asylum application, claiming that Khoda is "lying" about his situation. The authorities questioned, among other matters, why he was only baptized after coming to Sweden, and claimed that he "was unable to explain his coming out process" as a gay man. As homosexuality is prohibited under Islamic law, gays are routinely executed in Iran, most recently in January. Since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, Iran has executed "between 4,000 and 6,000 gays and lesbians" according to a 2008 British WikiLeaks dispatch.
As for Sweden's humanitarian impulses -- or lack thereof -- regarding persecuted Christians, there are an estimated 8,000 Christians under deportation orders hiding in Sweden, according to attorney Gabriel Donner, who has assisted an estimated 1,000 Christian asylum-seekers facing deportation.
Minister of Migration Morgan Johansson has also claimed, perhaps as a way of excusing how the government is going against its own election promise of reducing immigration into Sweden, that the country now has "the lowest asylum reception for 13 years." That claim is incorrect, according to numbers released by the Swedish Migration Board: The third-highest number of residence permits issued ever was in 2018 (132,696). The previous record years were 2016 and 2017, respectively, when 151,031 and 135,529 residence permits were granted to migrants. In 2018, the top ten source countries for foreigners granted residence permits were Syria, India, Afghanistan, Thailand, Eritrea, Iraq, China, Pakistan, Iran and Somalia.
It is a serious democratic problem for Sweden -- a country with a population of just over 10 million people -- that the government introduces policies that the majority of Swedes are against. In December 2018, a poll showed that 53% of all Swedes wanted legislation reducing the number of immigrants being accepted into Sweden.
Sweden might also soon be welcoming returning ISIS terrorists. According to Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, who was recently interviewed about this prospect, returning ISIS terrorists have a "right", as Swedish citizens, to return to Sweden. Löfven claimed that it would be against the Swedish constitution to strip them of their citizenship, but that those who had committed crimes would be prosecuted. Currently, Swedish law actually does not allow the security services to take all necessary measures against returning ISIS fighters. The law does not allow authorities, for example, to seize or search the mobile phones or computers of returning ISIS fighters, unless there is a concrete suspicion of a crime.
On a positive note, however, at the end of February, the Swedish government presented plans to introduce legislation that would criminalize membership of a terrorist organization. This new law would enable the prosecuting of returning ISIS fighters who cannot be connected to a specific crime, but who were proven to have been part of a terrorist organization. Critics have pointed out that it has taken years for the government to take steps to criminalize membership of terror organizations and that the planned penalty for belonging to one -- two to six years in prison -- is "ridiculously low." Until the law is passed, however, returning ISIS terrorists can only be tried for specific crimes committed while there were fighting for the "caliphate."
One Swedish terrorism expert, Magnus Ranstorp, recently warned Sweden against taking back not only ISIS terrorists, but also their wives and children, who he said also pose a security risk:
"The women are not innocent victims, and there is also a large group of ISIS children... From the age of eight or nine, they have been sent to indoctrination camps where they have learned close combat techniques and how to handle weapons. Some of them have learned how to kill... their identities will forever be linked to their time with ISIS, and the fact that they have an ISIS father or an ISIS mother."
Ranstorp also noted that Sweden's mental health system is "not fit to deal with that. If they stay with their extremist parents, there could be delayed effects further down the line, 15-20 years from now".
John Richardson is a researcher based in the United States.