Last week, Swedish Justice and Migration Minister Morgan Johansson visited the correctional facilities and met four immigrants who had found jobs there (as cleaners, kitchen workers and prison guards, respectively). Johansson assured the newcomers that their contribution is appreciated.
The Swedish Prison and Probation Service has pledged to provide 450 practice jobs, which will mostly go to new arrivals, but also people with disabilities. Around 70 jobs have already been arranged.
"I want to work, and I am very happy here at Mariefred. Now I hope that I will manage basic education," an elated Khaled Taha from Iraq said.
"Our hope is that they will want to stay and proceed to permanent employment," Helena Lönnkvist said.
Still, the several hundred jobs that the Swedish Prison and Probation Service will be able to provide at best, is only a fraction of what is needed in light of the recent years' influx of migrants, the majority of whom are able-bodied young men.
In the last two years, Sweden, a sparsely-populated Nordic nation of 10 million, took in over 200,000 asylum seekers, which has left a heavy toll on the country's welfare system and amplified the employment gap between "old Swedes" and "new Swedes." While unemployment among those born in Sweden is low and lies under 4.5 percent, unemployment among the foreign-born exceeds 21.1 percent, the latest figures from the Swedish Employment Service found.
As a result, a program of menial jobs with non-existent to low requirements was launched in order to employ as many newcomers facing language challenges as possible. In 2016, over 3,900 work permits for unskilled jobs that at most require a short training period or an introductory course were granted in Sweden, including berry-picking, farming and the like.
The decision to offer prison jobs to immigrants is by many seen as bitterly ironic, since migrants are commonly believed to have contributed to the crime surge that hit Sweden in recent years. Sweden, however, maintains no statistics on the culprits' ethnicity and considers it unethical to do so, thus vehemently denying any possible connection.
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