Cablegate: Mayor of Sweden's Refugee Capital Meets With
OO RUEHBC RUEHDA RUEHDE RUEHIHL RUEHKUK
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O 231100Z APR 08 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY STOCKHOLM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3369
INFO RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE
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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 STOCKHOLM 000298
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TAGS: PHUM PREF PREL PGOV IZ SE
SUBJECT: MAYOR OF SWEDEN'S REFUGEE CAPITAL MEETS WITH
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
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
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
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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
-- Sodertalje is oversaturated with immigrants and its
welfare services are inadequate to take care of the existing
-- 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
-- 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.