The Church of Sweden has demanded a package of measures for asylum seekers and illegal immigrants, whom it claims have suffered a lot from the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
In an opinion piece published in the newspaper Expressen, Archbishop Antje Jackelén and other members of Sweden's Christian Council stressed that all people “are created by God”, which is why politicians put measures in place to save “paperless” immigrants, who were claimed to be particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus. Jackelén also mentioned asylum seekers, temporary labour immigrants, migrants slated for deportation, and homeless people.
“Risk groups have been urged to stay home to avoid becoming infected. At the same time, we know that around 33,000 people in Sweden are homeless. Many paperless people have gone underground and are living in difficult conditions. Some have a roof over their heads but live in cramped areas and thus become extra prone to the spread of infection. Others have no home to go to during this 'isolation period' and some shelters are now closed”, Jackelén and fellow members of the Church Council wrote.
The archbishop also urged that immigration laws be reviewed.
“The borders are closed, which means that many cannot return home. Others live in an extended wait for their asylum learning to be settled, a process that is now at risk of being delayed further”, the Christian Council wrote.
The opinion piece sparked a reaction of social media, with people calling on Jackelén to instead protect the elderly, who are the hardest-hit category. Some even went so far as to call her “Antjechrist”, a pun on her name. Others, such as the news outlet Fria Tider, described the appeal as "demanding corona money”.
Shortly thereafter, Dagens Nyheter, one of Sweden's largest dailies published an appeal, demanding that so-called “unaccompanied refugee children” who have been allowed to stay in Sweden under the so-called high school law despite controversies surrounding their age and validity of asylum grounds, should receive amnesty due to the coronavirus pandemic. Similar demands were previously put forth by activist groups such as the Union of the Unaccompanied and Vistårinteut (“We can't take it”).
In recent decades, the Church of Sweden has changed its centuries-old stance on a number of issues, including those seen as controversial, such as LGBT activism and mass immigration, alienating many worshippers in a record exodus. This process has sped up under Jackelén.
Sweden, which has taken a maverick approach to tackling the coronavirus epidemic and refrained from total lockdowns, has seen at least 10,483 confirmed cases and 899 fatalities. Migrants from blighted areas and the elderly were earlier reported as the most vulnerable and hardest-hit groups.
Despite the Public Health Authority's advice to refrain from unnecessary travel, Sweden's Migration Board still moves asylum seekers between their accommodations, national broadcaster SVT reported.