May Day rally highlights plight of Stockholm’s ‘paperless’

Stockholm, May 2 (IANS) Swaying, trancing, dervishing to the mantras beat on several score drums, thousands of demonstrators snaked through the wide arteries of the Swedish capital on May Day with one single demand: Let Stockholm be free of discrimination!

An estimated 15,000 to 20,000 of these “illegals” live a catacomb existence, many for over a decade. Known as “the paperless”, for their lack of valid documentation, these miserable people hailing from different countries around the world – a large number from South Asia – await with ever dwindling hope for the various promises of the Swedish Riksdag (parliament) to normalize their situation.

Of the South Asian countries, the worst affected are refugees from war-torn Afghanistan.

Sathbir, an Afghan Hindu, told IANS: “I live in fear, day and year out, under constant damoclean threat of deportation. They contend that since US administration have declared that Afghanistan is safe, we have no reason to desire asylum any longer.

“They hardly realise the realities of clan-feuds that can persist there, no matter how many assurances of peace the government can claim. Especially, the Hindu minority continues to be the most vulnerable; not only from Taliban or other political entities but from our own erstwhile neighbours…friends, their coveting of our lands, homes.”

One marching activist, Anna Fredriksson, told IANS: “Nowadays, the Swedish Immigrations’ Board carry out deportations under draconian secrecy. Their main accomplice is the Turkish Airlines (TA). Bundled aboard their night flight, they are handed over to Turkish authorities that carry out the final leg of the process.

“Just last night we attempted to stop a TA flight leaving Arlanda Airport with two deportees, but our efforts were frustrated…,” said Fredriksson.

(Alfred de Tavares can be contacted at [email protected])

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