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WikiLeaks: 2008-04-23: 08STOCKHOLM298: Mayor of Sweden's Refugee Capital meets with Ambassador

by WikiLeaks. 08STOCKHOLM298: April 23, 2008.

Posted: Sunday, September 08, 2013 at 12:32 PM UT


Viewing cable 08STOCKHOLM298, MAYOR OF SWEDEN'S REFUGEE CAPITAL MEETS WITH

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Reference ID Created Classification Origin
08STOCKHOLM298 2008-04-23 11:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Stockholm
VZCZCXRO5569
OO RUEHBC RUEHDA RUEHDE RUEHIHL RUEHKUK
DE RUEHSM #0298/01 1141100
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 231100Z APR 08 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY STOCKHOLM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3369
INFO RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE
RUEHGB/AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD 0079
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 STOCKHOLM 000298 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
EUR FOR NB 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PHUM PREF PREL PGOV IZ SE
SUBJECT: MAYOR OF SWEDEN'S REFUGEE CAPITAL MEETS WITH 
AMBASSADOR 
 
REF: STOCKHOLM 263 
 
SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED--PLEASE PROTECT ACCORDINGLY. 
 
1. (SBU) Summary: On April 18, Ambassador Wood held meetings 
in Sodertalje (a Stockholm suburb of 83,000 with about 26,000 
Iraqi immigrants) to discuss immigration problems of 
Christian Iraqis.  Sodertalje's Mayor said there has been a 
steep spike in Iraqi Christian asylum-seekers over the past 
two years, which has oversaturated the welfare system 
(reftel).  The Mayor is soliciting help from other 
municipalities and foreign governments, including the U.S. 
Iraqi Christian community leaders told the Ambassador they 
were frustrated by how the U.S. government and Iraqi 
authorities are handling religious freedom in Iraq and how 
the Swedish government is handling its refugee program.  Post 
plans to continue a dialogue with the Iraqi community and 
Swedish government.  End summary. 
 
Why Sweden? A Schengen Immigration Problem 
----------------------------------------- 
 
2. (U) Sweden is viewed as one of the golden ticket countries 
for immigrants due to its liberal asylum policies and high 
standard of living.  However, geographically it is more 
difficult to access than the majority of EU states. 
According to EU refugee policy, the first Schengen-member 
state a refugee enters into is responsible for handling that 
refugee.  The lax enforcement, or "pass the buck attitude", 
of Schengen migration law by certain EU members is partially 
the reason for the large refugee influx to Sweden.  Nearly 
half of Iraqis going to Europe eventually reach Sweden, of 
which 10 percent go to Sodertalje, a municipality of 84,000 
south of Stockholm. 
 
3. (U) Mayor Lago testified on Capitol Hill on April 10 at a 
hearing arranged by the Helsinki Commission.  He briefed U.S. 
senators on how the Iraqi refugee crisis has affected 
Sodertalje and what his municipality is doing to ease its 
refugee burden. 
 
4. (SBU) The Ambassador discussed Sodertalje's immigration 
issues with officials, including Mayor Anders Lago, 
Sodertalje Municipality Director Ulla-Marie Hellenberg, and 
member of Sodertalje's Municipal Council, Marita Larnestad. 
Mayor Anders Lago told the Ambassador the Assyrian/Chaldean 
Iraqi migration spike over the past two years has 
oversaturated the municipality's capacity to provide each 
immigrant with adequate aid.  Lago pointed to four main 
problems: lack of jobs, adequate housing, and day 
care/schooling; and an increase in public support for 
anti-immigrant political parties, including among immigrant 
citizens. 
 
Sodertalje's Solution 
--------------------- 
 
5. (SBU) Over-immigration forced Sodertalje to restructure 
its refugee settlement plan.  The municipality is focusing on 
reducing the influx of refugees, creating jobs, and speeding 
up the asylum process so that refugees can quickly enter the 
workforce and exit the welfare system.  Mayor Lago is 
lobbying Swedish municipalities and foreign governments to 
help absorb the newly-arrived refugees. 
 
6. (SBU) Lago's main request to the Ambassador was for the 
U.S. to help absorb 100 Iraqi refugees currently in 
Sodertalje.  He proposed that the U.S. provide "green cards" 
to 100 refugees as a sign of our intention to ease the burden 
on Sodertalje.  Additionally, Lago would like the U.S. 
government's help to deepen cooperation between Uppsala 
University and Wayne State University in their comparative 
analysis of Iraqi refugee integration.  The Ambassador 
thanked Lago for his thoughts and told him that he would send 
back his requests to Washington. 
 
Iraqi Christians: "We cannot go back" 
------------------------------------- 
 
7. (U) Also on April 18, the Ambassador met with members of 
the Assyrian/Chaldean Iraqi refugee community in Sodertalje. 
Pastor Paul Raban of St. Johannes Catholic Church told the 
Ambassador that, as the "invaders," the U.S. is responsible 
for taking care of all refugees.  Another church official 
said the Iraqi government cannot protect the Christian 
minority and therefore the U.S. must protect them. 
 
8. (SBU) Three recent immigrants gave testimony to the 
worsening situation for Iraqi Christians in Iraq and the 
 
STOCKHOLM 00000298  002 OF 002 
 
 
difficulties present for them in Sweden.  Their main messages 
to the Ambassador and Mayor were: 
 
-- They do not believe they will ever be able to return to 
Iraq; 
-- Sodertalje is oversaturated with immigrants and its 
welfare services are inadequate to take care of the existing 
refugees; 
-- The U.S. must help Sodertalje absorb refugees; 
-- Iraqi Christians are not considered an ethnic minority, 
and thus are not protected by the Iraqi constitution.  They 
are targeted for persecution by the Shia and Sunni alike. 
 
9. (SBU) Many of the Iraqi Christians criticized the Swedish 
government in the presence of Mayor Lago.  (Comment: Their 
comments demonstrate resentment of both the Muslim community 
and the Swedish government.  End comment) 
 
-- Muslim Iraqis are getting residency, but not Christian 
Iraqis, because the Swedish government is biased. 
-- As the Swedish government does not provide adequate 
support for Iraqi refugees, the government is at fault for 
criminal activity by the "bored" Iraqi youth. 
 
10. (U) Local media were intensely interested in the 
Ambassador and Mayor's meeting with the Iraqi community. 
Suroyo TV, a satellite broadcaster to the Middle East, filmed 
much of the session and posed questions to the Ambassador 
on-camera.  The Ambassador expressed sympathy for the plight 
of the community, both those who have fled as well as those 
who remain in Iraq. 
 
11. (U) Ambassador Wood listened carefully to the group and 
thanked them for their time and stories, saying he would 
convey their comments to Washington and Embassy Baghdad. 
 
Further Embassy Engagement with Sweden's Iraqi Immigrants 
--------------------------------------------- ----------- 
 
12. (U) Post plans to take the following actions to continue 
its engagement with the Iraqi refugee community and the 
Swedish government: 
 
-- Follow-up visits to Sodertalje to engage in a dialogue 
with the Assyrian/Chaldean community; 
-- Connect the Iraqi refugee community in Sweden with 
U.S.-based NGOs and U.S. Iraqi communities to enhance 
cooperation on refugee issues. 
WOOD

 



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