Two days ago I was invited to a seminar here in Malmoe about what REVA has done to this city. The seminar was arranged by Hassela Ungdomsrörelse/Hassela Youth Movement in co-operation with Spiritus Mundi, Asylstafetten 2013/The Asylum Relay Race 2013, Skånes Stadsmission/Scania’s City Mission, Malmö mot Diskriminering/Malmoe against Discrimination and Malmö Högskola/Malmoe University. The idea was to focus on what REVA is, what the different laws say, what the structures look like, what can be done and not, listen to some stories by young people who have come to Sweden without papers and learn about the psychological effects of e.g. PTSD, Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Despite the serious subject about a phenomenon that provokes many feelings and harsh life destinies, and can be seen from many different angles, the seminar was held in a very welcoming, loving and respectul spirit. Some youngsters have been educated by the Hassela Movement in leadership, ART= Agression Regression Training, different cultures etc, with the intention to help other young people who are or have been in trouble or some kind of abuse. When I came to Mäster Johansgatan 6 and the premises belonging to Spiritus Mundi/Spirit of the World/Dunia al-Muhabba I was welcomed and shown into the bigger room. I talked to my former pupil Parisa Lashgari and her mother who were preparing food there. Parisa has never been in trouble, but she is a positive force and she joined Hassela a little more than a year ago. After the young adults had got the theoretical education for eight weeks by Hassela they decided to start a youth movement and they have existed for a little more than a year now. Those active wore a t-shirt with seven words written on the backside: Respekt/Respect, Ödmjukhet/Humility, Relation, Engagemang/Commitment, Lojalitet/Loyalty, Solidaritet/Solidarity, Empati/Empathy. The initial letters in each word were written in red and when one read those letters from top to bottom they shaped the word RÖRELSE/MOVEMENT.
These young adults really gave these words a true meaning, because they showed us all how to enbody it to make it part of a dignified life. Before we started I also talked to another one of my former pupils, who also had me as her mentor when she was in lower secondary school, Anita Karroum. My friend Gustavo Nazar, who sadly enough couldn’t be present was glad that I would come.
We were welcomed by Amar Habib and Omar Mizo who told us a little about Hassela Ungdomsrörelse: how they wanted to see a change in their own lives and the society. A positive change. Amar also explained what the subject for the day was. The first on stage to speak was a refugee from Afghanistan named Ali Ahmadi. Ali had problems with the Swedish language so he chose to speak in English. Ali Ahmadi comes originally from Afghanistan where his ethnic group, the Hazars, is harrassed and killed, even though they have lived there much longer – 7000 years – than the dominating group, he said. When Ali was seven or eight years old he couldn’t go to the doctor because he was a Hazar for instance. When he fled the country he went first to Iran, where also Hazars are harrased and killed, and he also was in England for two years. In 2011 Ali came to Sweden where he has been living a conceiled life and 18 months without papers.
The second speaker was also named Ali…Ali Reza. This young man told his story mostly in a broken, but quite understandable Swedish, despite the fact that he only has been here for only five months. Ali came here at the age of 16 as a single refugee and he too is a Hazar from Afghanistan. On his way here he had seen families on the run, and he told us how they easier got help than he did as a single child. The police in the different countries didn’t stop the families, but single refugees like him. Poor people like himself get lots of trouble in Sweden, Ali explained, but he also said that it is even worse in the other countries he’s been to. “There are expectations on us, nobody wants to help us and if someone gets ill you might as well die, because nobody cares. As a refugee you have no human rights whatsoever, noone will help you, but all will use and abuse you. You have to leave everything of value behind when you run” Ali exclaimed with frustrated fervour. Many are abused as slave labour, get raped, beaten, imprisoned and badly treated on the way. 50% of the refugees without papers are almost dying, according to Ali who have seen it with his own eyes. When he was in Turkey the Turkish police took Ali’s cellphone and didn’t allow him to contact anyone. After 21 000 kilometres on the run Ali Reza came to Sweden. He’s naturally critical of the REVA project and says that on the one hand the Swedish government has now passed a law to give refugees the right to get medical care and education, but on the other hand there’s REVA, which is meant to kick as many as possible out. Despite this Ali said that Sweden nevertheless is the first country where people have wanted to help him and others like him, where people listen to what he says and that he’s treated with respect also. “Sweden is the best place in the world”, Ali added. He also explained that we are all humans, and that he wishes to educate and become a positive person in this society, even if he now sometimes is nervous, angry and worried. Finally Ali told us about the Asylum Relay Race 2013 which started from Malmoe to Lund yesterday, and will continue until they stop in Stockholm in a few days. There will be 34 stops on the way: Malmoe – Lund – Landskrona – Helsingborg – Markaryd etc.
The next speaker was the lawyer Karin Henrikz from Malmö mot Diskriminering. She’s been working for them for two years and is very dedicated. She explained in a very good and pedagogic way what the laws say, and what the structures look like when it comes to REVA. The letters mean Rättssäkert och Effektivt VerkställighetsArbete/ Legally Secure and Efficient Execution Work. It’s a co-operation project between the Migration Authority, The Crime Correction Board and the Swedish police, but in accordance with instructions from the Swedish Government. Karin told us that the REVA-project was initiated in 2009, and that they chose Malmoe as a pilot project city, because it’s close to the European continent, many immigrants and refugees come here, but is smaller than Stockholm and easier to survey. However one didn’t inform the local politicians here in Malmoe about it, but kept it secret for a long time. The border police have been ordered by the government to intensify the hunt on refugees without papers and are supposed to do that until June 2014. Even if the REVA-project started here in Malmoe it has also been implemented in the other larger cities as well. However it was first in 2012 that the REVA-project was noticed and mentioned in the media, and the local authorities and politicians learned what was going on. In the Regulation letter for 2013 from the Government to the Swedish Police the police are told to “improve the efficiency in their work to execute dismissal and deportation orders”.
Karin Henrikz told us that the police bosses had been sent to courses in Lean-productions. Originally Lean-production was invented to improve the efficiency in the industrial construction of cars. Make it quicker, more efficient and structured. Many companies have adopted the idea of Lean-production. In recent years the idea of Lean-production has been implemented also in schools, within the police, within the health-care system such as hospitals and wards, within the psychiatry. This has led to many quick “economic” decicions which have affected many people with lives, feelings, destinies, families. According to Karin Henrikz she could well see the use for Lean-productions in productions of cars, but not as well when it comes to human lives. She also told us that there exists a “solidarity and handling of migration waves” between countries within the European Union. This litterally means that there is an authority and government consensus about keeping immigrants from outside the EU out, and to shut the borders, building walls. She here also mentioned the difference between Citizen Rights and Human Rights, which not always are the same thing. The citizens in a country or an inter-national union always have more Citizen Rights than those without, and it looks the same all over the world, but in different constellations, whether we like it or not.
The police follow various laws in their profession, and carry out their orders. When it comes to REVA and “inner foreigner controll” the police work is regulated in Chapter 9, §9 in Utlänningslagen/The Foreigner Act, 2) the regulations from the National Police Board, and 3) the inner foreigner controll for the police, RP SFS 2011:4. Karin also told us that a single police officer has to follow orders, otherwise he or she won’t be doing his or her job, and it’s very difficult for a police officer to oppose the rules given. She also explained that the judicial system in Sweden is excluded from the Discrimination Act/Diskrimineringslagen 2008: 567. Here Karin also stated that there also sometimes is a discrepancy between judicial justice and moral justice.
In the REVA-project so called “racial profiling” is used, which means that people with a certain ethnic background is stopped. However, according to the European Union’s Bureau for Basic Rights this is forbidden. “To stop and body-search someone when the only or main reason is to controll that person’s race, ethnic belonging or religion is a direct case of discrimination and is illegal”. Karin also told us about how long the police might take care of people and keep them in custody, where to go if you feel ill-treated and also about the case of Stephen Lawrence in the United Kingdom. Stephen Lawrence was a young man who was murdered in the beginning of the 1990’s. The British police assumed that the killing was gang related and didn’t bother to investigate it really and also lost important pieces of evidence. After 18 years it became clear that there was a racist motive behind the murder and also a racist connotation in the police mentality when they handled the case. Since some time back the British police are ordered by UK law to report every year how they oppose racist influences and mentality in the British police force. Karin ended by telling us to use media, peaceful demonstrations, mass reports of abuse, being harder when confronting and influencing politicians, arrange seminars and specific topic days like this one.
Between the speeches we had breaks for just talking with each other, discuss the topics and so on. Amar Habib was in a splendid mood and before one of the pauses he wanted us all to play a little and sing the nursery rhyme “Ipsy whipsy spider” in three versions: one tiny, one medium and one big. He called upon his colleague from Hassela Amani Abdel-All to help him lead us in the game. During one of the breaks I also asked my former pupil Parisa how they in Hassela Youth Movement are treated by outsiders. She told me that they sometimes initially are treated with suspicion and prejudice, but after a while people get to see what they actually are doing and easen up. That’s also how it was during the Elm Valley Week/Almedalsveckan on the island of Gotland recently. They were there. Anita also talked a little with me and it’s these two young ladies you see in one of the pictures above: Parisa to the left and Anita to the right.
Kenjiro Sato who’s a psychologist originally from Chile, now working at the “Team for War and Torture Injured” at Malmo University Hospital told us about the psychologic effects of a trauma like being a refugee without papers. He talked about “the spaghetti-theory”, also called “the migration- or refugee-theory”. It’s describing that there’s a mishmash of spaghetti in the soul, everything is in chaos. It begins with a “sometimes” ordinary life in the home country, family, group belonging, every day life. Then comes a time of oppression which creates great trauma: wars, persecutions, killings, disaster in some form. People you love die, family members, relatives, your teacher is killed, your uncle, your city is burned or occupied, your country, or your group is persecuted. As a last resort you flee your country. Not as the first thing…The last thing. You have to run and leave the old life and security behind. During the flight many experience many traumas, robbery, violations, rapes, betrayals, intimidations and loss of human dignity and value…EVERYTHING. You lose trust in people. These traumas lead to PTSD= Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. In a new country you apply for asylum, and the agony continues by waiting for an answer. The PTSD includes variations of different feelings and symptoms: fear, helplessness, fright, agony, relived PTSD, painful memories, flashbacks, nightmares etc. You might lose interest in meeting people, lose interest in important things, get a feeling that you have a short future, get apathetic and lose strength. You might get irritated easily, are easily frightened, lose your temper often, suffer from insomnia and get paranoid. To solve this it might help you to breath in order to relax, take walks if you can, ride a bike, train your physique if possible.
The children’s doctor Lars Gustavsson and his wife have developed a method. They were working in the Middle East and when they came back to Sweden and Lycksele they developed the method STROF = Struktur, Tala, Rutiner, Organisation, Föräldrastöd. In English this method is called STOP= Structure, Time, Organized Play and Parental Support. If there are no parents some other good adult. He also said that it was difficult helping the traumatised youngsters because of REVA, since they are surveyed. It was very interesting listening to Kenjiro Sato and his wise words.
Then the young scientist Pouran Djampour from Malmoe University held a discussion with us concerning why REVA first was noticed publically when it came to Stockholm? Some of us said that it might be a combination of several factors: that Stockholm is the Capital city, that it’s more visible for everyone when people get stopped in the Stockholm Subway, everyone can see, and its’ close to the Government, and also maybe because the infrastructure looks different in Stockholm compared to Malmoe. Pouran Djampour pinpointed that when REVA made headlines in the national newpapers the headlines wasn’t focusing on the refugees without papers, but the fact that nine of ten stopped by the police were Swedish citizens. Djampour also highlighted that this mentality with inner foreigner controlls started before the decision of REVA in 2009, and here in Europe it increased after the Schengen Treaty. Pouran Djampour also mentioned that here in Malmoe 40% of the immigrants work, while 60% are unemployed, among citizens born here 75% work and 25% are unemployed. It’s a question of structural discrimination. A young woman in the audience in the back row who comes from Stockholm said: “It feels like criminilizing a human for its very existence. Are we wrong who just want to live?”
Ali Ahmadi, Omid Mahmoud and Ali Reza said at the end that they don’t want to be afraid of the police and don’t want to flee once more. Now they walk for freedom. They and others. It was a good seminar and I learned a lot. These people who try to do good are the true heroes and heroines of society. Our present day and part of our future.
Anders Moberg, July 15th 2013