18:35 GMT +321 October 2019
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    Swedish Bureaucrats Troubled by Harassment

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    Unlawful influence on Swedish public authorities has increased and harassment is the most common form of undue influence, according to a new report by the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention (Brå). Despite the fact that up to half of public servants may experience tampering, Brå remains firm in that their decision making is not affected.

    After questioning a total of 13 agencies and two insurance funds in a major survey, encompassing 45,500 officials at among other the Employment Service, the Economic Crimes Bureau, the Social Insurance Agency, the Coast Guard, and police, Brå arrived at the conclusion that undue influence increased in comparison with 2005, when a similar, albeit less comprehensive study was published. Today, the rate of exposure varies between organizations, but is generally estimated at 30 to 50 percent.

    "The most important result is that harassment is the most common form of tampering. Maybe it is violence that people are most afraid of, but the most common type of tampering is harassment," Johanna Skinnari, project manager at Brå, told Swedish Radio.

    According to Skinnari, the surge depends on both the actual increase and a reduction of unrecorded cases, thanks to increased security measures and the fact that people are more inclined to speak out than they were ten years ago. The term "harassment" includes many forms of unsolicited influence, such as aggressive pressure and intimidation.

    "It's about receiving unpleasant phone calls or being blamed for an adverse decision. Some threaten even to take their lives, provided that they do not get the decision they want," Skinnari explained.

    Many officials make decisions that are of grave importance for applicants. Therefore many try to influence public servants to make the "right" decision. Unsurprisingly, Sweden's Migration Board, which came under immense pressure after Sweden took in an unprecedented 163,000 asylum-seekers, received the biggest share of harassment and intimidation. At present, Sweden is still struggling to process last year's massive heap of asylum applications, despite the fact that the Migration Board repeatedly has come under fire for running an overblown budget of 30 billion SEK (roughly 3.6 $billion) and excessive staff of over 8,000 employees.

    "Many of our employees may find themselves under pressure with phrases like 'you are responsible for my life,' 'you must understand the nature of the decision,' 'I want it all at once,' 'I cannot wait' and the like. On the other hand, people who have decided to go home want to have their documents ready as soon as possible," Monica Karum Bergvall, security chief at the Migration Board, told Swedish Radio.

    Policemen and a group of migrants stand on the platform at the Swedish end of the bridge between Sweden and Denmark
    © AFP 2019 / STIG-AKE JONSSON / TT NEWS AGENCY
    Brå officials went on to ensure that harassment, widespread as it may be, does not affect the decision-making process.

    "According to what we see, it does not affect decision-making very much. Officials withstand this pressure. However, what happens is that they might feel the need to change their life, try to delete private data from the Internet and may in the long run even consider quitting or starting anew on a less vulnerable post," Johanna Skinnari explained.

    Monica Karum Bergvall ensured that the decision-making process at the Migration Board remains unharmed, as harassment only endangers the work environment and puts extra stress on officials.

    Topic:
    Major Migrant Crisis in Europe (1819)

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    harassment, public sector, Sveriges Radio, Scandinavia, Sweden
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