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    Swedish police. (File)

    Body Searches and 24/7 Surveillance to Uncover Migrants' True Identity in Sweden

    © AFP 2016/ BERTIL ERICSON
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    Refugee and Migrant Crisis in Europe (90)
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    In recent years, Sweden has emerged as one of Europe's most generous host countries in the wake of the migrant crisis. Today, both police and the Migration Board want to see radical measures to establish the identity of newcomers to eliminate the risk of convicts and terrorists seeping into the country in asylum seekers' disguise.

    In this photo provided by Jenny Kitsune Adolffson Swedish police officer Mikaela Kellner is pinning a man to the ground who is suspected to have stolen a friend's mobile phone as she said, in Stockholm Sweden, Wednesday, July 27, 2016
    © AP Photo/ Jenny Kitsune Adolfsson
    In a report on government measures to increase voluntary return and expulsion of refused asylum seekers, Swedish police and migration authorities demanded decisive action to eliminate cases of mistaken identity. Some of the requirements, such as to the right to perform body searches on applicants throughout the asylum process or searching their apartments, were instantly frowned upon by Swedish civil society, even if such measures are common in neighboring Norway.

    Additionally, the Migration Board also proposed fishing for information on social media about asylum seekers regardless of whether or not there are allegations of war crimes or security threats, which is the established practice nowadays, Swedish national broadcaster SVT reported.

    According to Per Löwenberg of the national border police, 60 percent of asylum seekers managed to produce some kind of ID at the start of the asylum process in 2016. However, there is no absolute requirement for applicants to prove their identity to get asylum. The identification request may be lifted once the applicants face mortal danger in their home country or may put themselves in danger by merely contacting the authorities.

    Unsurprisingly, this humanitarian loophole has led to widespread abuse. The Migration Board highlighted coordination problems between various bodies, which leads to people being convicted in Sweden under one identity while having been registered with the immigration authorities under another.

    "This shouldn't be allowed to happen. You should only have one identity and that identity should be linked to biometrics like fingerprints," a fuming Swedish Interior Minister Anders Ygeman said, as quoted by Swedish newspaper Helsinborgs Dagblad.

    An established identity is a prerequisite for rejected asylum seekers to be returned to their respective home countries. By the Migration Board's recent estimates, no less than 88,000 return decisions will be taken during the period 2016-2018. Half of the rejects are expected to return voluntarily. So far in 2016, around 18,000 asylum seekers have returned to their home countries from Sweden. Of those, some 2,400 had to be deported forcibly.

    According to Ygeman, it is necessary to step up the practice of forcible returns.

    "Primarily it is important to show that you can't choose for yourself, while at the same time encouraging people to return voluntarily," Anders Ygeman said.

    In another apparent "setback" for human rights activists, Swedish police were recently green-lit to install surveillance cameras in Rinkeby and Tensta, Stockholm's most nefarious suburbs and hotbeds of crime, both noted for an overwhelming concentration of people of immigrant descent. Police sought to put up surveillance cameras since 2013, but their efforts were stopped by the Data Inspectorate as "restricting citizens' integrity." Police countered that the benefits of surveillance clearly overshadowed privacy risks.

    "This place is particularly affected in many ways, with many serious crimes occurring," Rinkeby police officer Niclas Andersson told Swedish national broadcaster SVT, citing the possibility of using surveillance data in court in addition to crime prevention.

    Topic:
    Refugee and Migrant Crisis in Europe (90)

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    Tags:
    refugees, migrant crisis, police, Anders Ygeman, Scandinavia, Sweden
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