The issues of migration and integration have been present in societal news, newspaper and on social media during recent years. Relevant for the work of Disabled Refugees Welcome within this debate is the temporary change of the migration law enacted in the summer of 2016.
According to this temporary legal change, refugees and asylum seekers for subsidiary protection no longer have the right to a permanent residence permit. This applies, for example, to people who are war refugees from Syria and who have sought asylum later than 25th November 2015. The change also applies to relatives of former asylum seekers. Not least, the issue of personal assistance has been a hot topic in the societal debate during the last months. This can be viewed as a direct result of the severe austerity that recently has dominated the issue of LSS, and an imminent uncertainty around the future application of the law.
The New Moderates’ proposal to the Budget Bill, referring to LSS and personal assistance, is a problematic twist in this debate. According to the proposal, the assistance allowance will only be granted to persons that have income qualifying for sickness allowance (SGI), permanent and long-term residence or citizenship and permanent accommodation in Sweden. The proposal raises considerable fears among us that work in the DRW project since it runs the risk of further limiting the rights of newcomers. Our opinion is that the proposal can result in unequal treatment of individuals in our country, and hamper or prevent the process of integration for people in need of social benefits.
The problem is also highlighted by the Swedish Agency for Participation (MFD) in their report ‘’Personer med funktionsnedsättningar i asyl-och etableringsprocessen’’ [Disabled people within the process of asylum and establishment] from 2017. Referring to the new temporary law, the agency cautions for severe consequences for the group of disabled newcomers that already are in a very vulnerable situation. They assess that harsher demands on self-provision and limited opportunities for family reunification risk hitting this group hard. Another important aspect, highlighted in the report and of vital importance in the context of the proposal, is if employment with wage subsidies are classed as self-provision as this can be decisive for the possibility of receiving a permanent residence permit. It is also very welcome that the agency emphasises the need for a more in-depth evaluation of the new law’s effects on the target group.
Indicators are missing on what the New Moderates’ proposal would specifically mean for the issue of integration, but there are data on how personal assistance, in general, has promoted participation in the labour market for its users. The data is available in the Swedish Social Insurance Agency’s report on the user survey from 2011. The report clearly shows that 13% are granted personal assistance to work, 3% are sometimes granted personal assistance to work, and a further 2% would want to have personal assistance to work. Furthermore, 24% have answered that they would need personal assistance to be able to work; 33% of them are in the age span 30-39 years old. Even if these numbers do not provide specific information on the target group of disabled newcomers, we think they need consideration when debating the proposal.
There ,is a lack of firm numbers on how many newcomers with a need for personal assistance that fall under the new law on temporary residence permits in the present day situation, and who will be affected by the New Moderates’ proposal. In spite of, we can notice through our contacts with the target group that there are people who due to a lack of support cannot participate in different integration activities. In an interview with Assistanskoll, Maj Karlsson, member of the Parliament Committee on Health and Welfare for the Left Party criticise the proposal on limited welfare for certain groups. We share her view that access to the welfare system is essential for the social protection of all people, and produces pre-conditions for development and self-realisation.
We are aware that the integration efforts are in the process of developing and this is why we want to highlight the fact that disabled people are part of the group of newcomers. It is, therefore, of utmost necessity to include their needs in issues of integration. This applies particularly to the right of assistance together with other services as necessary pre-conditions to succeed with a mutual integration on the whole. It simply is not possible to learn the language, complement your skills or work without access to the services you need, including Assistance Allowance.
Efficient integration demands that the community has a good knowledge of the needs of the newcomers. An important part of the work our project Disabled Refugees Welcome (DRW) carry out is producing material that can contribute to increased knowledge of the needs of the target group, various obstacles to the process of integration as well as solutions that work well today.
Therefore, DRW believes that any proposal aiming for a restricted access to support for disabled newcomers, not only would be contrary to the individual’s right to an independent life and self-determination but would result in further negative consequences for the integration of a whole group of people that already face significant challenges regarding their right to a dignified reception.
According to The Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, Swedish law and EU regulations, you area refugee of you have a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of:
- religion or political opinion,
- sexual orientation, or
- membership of a particular social group.
Persons in need of subsidiary protection
A person deemed in need of subsidiary protection is one who:
- is at risk of being sentenced to death,
- is at risk of being subjected to corporal punishment, torture or other inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment, or
- as a civilian, is at serious risk of injury due to armed conflict.
A person who is assessed as in need of subsidiary protection will be granted a subsidiary protection status declaration, which is founded on EU regulations.
Persons with a protection status declaration are normally given a residence permit for 13 months. (Certain people who applied for asylum by November 24, 2015, at the latest may be given a permanent residence permit.)
Source: The Swedish Migration Agency