The Swedish model of tolerance? The Mejia-Andino case vs. Sweden

Martin Mantxo (A Planeta) (en castellano AQUI)

Previous aerticle in A Planeta

A Swedish plays for my city’s team: Alexander Isak. He also plays for the Swedish national team, but he doesn’t conform to Scandinavian stereotypes: his parents emigrated from Eritrea. The other world-renowned Swedish figure does not fit the prototype either: Zlatan Ibrahimović. His father and mother are from the former Yugoslavia. Sweden did not have the multicultural tradition of the (directly) imperialist European countries, but its progressive spirit made it a destination for many refugees and immigrants. The results can be seen today in activities such as football.

But also in others of an opposite nature that have crossed borders, such as that photo of the action of a black woman, Tess Asplund, who dared in 2016 with her fist up to hinder a Nazi march, belonging to the Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM). Splund then declared that racism had been normalized in Sweden. That year, the UN had shown concern about the particular rise of afrophobia in Swedish society, which was expressed through discrimination and violent acts. The NRM is known to engage in violence of a racist nature, declaring itself to be National Socialist and anti-Semitic. The same year, months earlier, in January, the government rejected 80,000 asylum applications, half of those received. One year earlier, in 2015, the Swedish government eliminated the automatic right for Syrian citizens to permanent residence, reducing it to 3 years.

The escalation of the Swedish right has its peak in 2010, with the Swedish Democratic Party, more moderate than the NRM but also conservative and anti-immigrant. Until 2002 it had less than 2% of the vote, but by that year, 2010, it had reached 6%, with 20 parliamentary seats. In 2014, the party received nearly 10% of the vote. Currently, Swedish institutions are divided into two blocs: the current government (Social Democrats and Greens) and the Conservative, but neither holds a majority.

Mejia-Andino v. Sweden

A new and embarrassing case reaches now the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg calls into question this Swedish tolerance of immigrants and the disadvantaged.

This is the case of the Honduran citizen Erlin Mejia-Andino vs. Sweden (49738/20) in an asylum application rejected by the government of that country. It is embarrassing because Erlin Mejia-Andino’s legitimate reasons for seeking political asylum are well known (from the evidence presented, but also from the extensive information available and accessible to anyone), because the evidence presented makes the case indisputable and because of the well known situation in Honduras of persecution and violence against activists.

Erlin Mejia participated in the Oposición Indignada (Outraged Opposition) movement that opposed the government from the 2009 coup d’état. Among others, this movement demanded the resignation of the president and an international commission against impunity. He also participated in the torchlight march and in sit-ins where he got public exposure. It also denounced the participation of public officials in human trafficking networks. It is well known that human rights have been violated since the coup d’état against activists and opponents of the regime, the best known case being the murder of Berta Cáceres. Only in the political crisis of 2017 after the alleged fraud in the general elections which resulted in the election of Juan Orlando Hernandez, 38 people were murdered.

In this context, the threats against Erlin become more important, especially since on October 4, 2016 her sister was kidnapped and found two days later. This kidnapping is understood by Erlin as a warning against him for her denunciations against the trafficking network, corruption and organized crime, and her activism against the coup government.

In this sense, Erlin recalls the levels of involvement of the current government of Juan Orlando Hernandez with organized crime, since in addition of being accused of drug trafficking, his own brother, former Congressman Tony Hernandez, remains in a U.S. prison on charges of drug trafficking since October 18, 2019. Erlin has also denounced the military, police, NGOs and the president of Honduras himself.

Since 2017, Erlin Mejia has been living in Sweden. Due to her persecution, she applied for asylum, which has been denied three times since December 2019, the last time in June 2020. Now again, the Swedish migration services set the deadline to start the deportation procedure for December 24th. But the case has been taken to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, because the Swedish government is contradicting one of the basic principles of European policy, which is to grant asylum to those whose lives are in danger due to political considerations (Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights). Today, Friday, is the deadline to deliver the documents that have already been sent, so until the resolution of the European process, the Swedish government will not be able to take any action against Erlin Mejia, since its legislation is subordinated to the European one.

Thus, his lawyer Gabriel Campos expressed to this media that the Swedish decision itself is already a crime because it has caused harm to his defendant by “damaging his life project, a right that is included in the preamble of the Declaration of Human Rights. Thus, the lawyer believes that the power not only to obtain Erlin’s permanence in Sweden, but also to have him compensated for the damage caused to him, is a fundamental right.

Gabriel Campos calls the case “an aberrant violation of the fundamental rights of Erlin Mejia and her family. For him this demand demands “the obligation of the Strasbourg Court to protect and guarantee the Human Rights of my client within the legal framework of International Human Rights Law”.

Likewise, Erlin Mejia, in the numerous exchanges of information carried out to date, has shown his determination to go to the end not only to achieve his rights, but also to the precedent that his case may represent in the Swedish and European immigration policy. In that sense, Erlin commented today that “he feels grateful to the Swedish society, but at the same time he feels that his right to life has been violated”. Because we must think that in this situation, this year of applications for deportation, has caused uncertainty and instability that have had a significant impact on his person, generating much nervousness and anxiety, and making it difficult to proceed with long-term projects.

Another aspect joins those already mentioned, which is Erlin’s condition of disability, due to a deterioration of her bone mass and which now in Sweden she has managed to mitigate. However, from our communication we can see that in spite of these limitations, Erlin has a highly developed intelligence, also a big heart and that he’s able to raises his fist higher than many, so that others do not go through similar situations. Erlin has faith that he will pass this test and that the Swedish government will be exposed as unjust and racist.

Racism in Sweden.

To all said above about the progression of racism in Sweden, we can only add other notes related to events of the last few days.

Racism flourishes in the crisis, whether it be economic, social, or of values; not because of the presence of more or less immigrants, although these, like minorities, are normally used as an excuse and as a target, and it is normally the formula employed by the right wing to divert attention, for example, distract from the real causes of these inequalities, such as the enrichment of a few or harmful investments, such as the waste of money on armies, police, civil servants, unnecessary infrastructures, superfluous public acts, etc, or the failures of the policies of the institutions.   

According to migration expert Alexander Burlin, in recent years Sweden has been affected by “neoliberal welfare reforms and the war on drugs” that have eroded the “egalitarian policies that have long made Sweden so different”. Thus the recent protests of Black Lives Matter (BLM) in the US have been replicated throughout Sweden, but not as a mere act of solidarity but also as a denounce of local racism. As Burlin explains, Sweden has participated in the legacy of the U.S., which was challenged by those protests: “white supremacy and neoliberalism”. Something that few know is that Sweden also participated in the slave trade, more specifically from its only domain, the tiny island of St Barthélemy, and was one of the last European countries to abolish slavery. One of the theorists of supremacism was the well-known biologist Carlos Lineo, who despite his contributions in the field of ecology, modern biological taxonomy, and binomial nomenclature, in the eighteenth century his obsession with classifying everything also led him to divide the human species according to its supposed races, falling into what is understood as scientific racism. Similarly, the Swedish State Institute of Racial Biology stood out in international research on racial eugenics until the 1930s. Burlin claims that “structural racism in Sweden continues to shape its policy and institutions today”.

June 7, 2020 Black Lives Matter demonstration in Gothenburg, Sweden. The sign reads: ‘Sweden is involved in this, Sweden must solve this’

Racism is felt in hate crimes but also in discrimination in various forms. And discrimination can include rejecting asylum applications from people who meet the requirements, thus not only putting them back in danger, but adding further harm to them.

 

 

 

 

 

References

1Woman who defied 300 neo-Nazis at Swedish rally speaks of anger (Guardian, 04-05-2016) www.theguardian.com/world/2016/may/04/woman-defied-neo-nazis-sweden-tess-asplund-viral-photograph

3En su gavor apuntar que las más de 160.000 solicitudes de asilo de 2015 eran las mayores cifras en la UE en proporción a la población.

4Ver más en Strömbäck, Jesper. 2016. Sweden: No Longer a European Exception.

5Ver otros artículos en el caso como “Ante la presión y negativa de asilo, activista hondureño presenta demanda en tribunal de Estrasburgo contra gobierno sueco” (REDCOM) https://telegra.ph/ante-la-presion-y-negativa-de-asilo-activista-hondureño-presenta-demanda-en-tribunal-de-estrasburgo-contra-gobierno-sueco-11-26

6Entrevista realizada el 2 de diciembre 2020

7Alexander Burlin. 2020. Sweden’s Shameful Record on Racism Shows Why We Need Black Lives Matter https://jacobinmag.com/2020/06/sweden-black-lives-matter-defund-the-police-europe-neoliberalism-racism

8Sus estatuas fueron unas de las eliminadas en el movimiento resultante de Black Lives Matter. Ese movimiento argumentó que Lineo con su investigación “ayudó a los europeos blancos a imaginar que eran la raza superior y se usó como base y explicación para deshumanizar a los negros, colonizar y saquear” (www.lavanguardia.com)

 

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