Between Sweden & Syria, Video-calls Every Sunday

I was in Halmstad last autumn; I went on a journalistic mission to interview an Afghan asylum seeker living in the asylum seekers’ accommodation, the purpose was to talk about the reason for rejecting most of the Afghans’ asylum applications in Sweden or deporting them. It was Sunday when all cities in the world are boring even the crowded New York, so can you imagine Halmstad on Sundays? And it is the 20th-largest city by population in Sweden according to Wikipedia. I liken Sundays’ vibes in Europe to Fridays’ vibes in Syria.



Sunday strolling, I spent the time waiting for the case to come. I was walking back and forth in Hantverksgatan 22-16 in Halmstad, suddenly I

heard someone speaking Syrian accent loudly, I followed the voice until I found a man carrying his mobile phone up towards the tower of a church and speaking “This is where I live my child, and this is a church, can you see it clearly?!” I stood a few meters away from him listening to his conversation with his family inside Syria. Very sad, among the words of the father I could feel his feelings of sadness and guilt. I waited for him to finish his video call with his family and introduced myself to him and why I was in Halmstad. Since he knew that I was a journalist, he immediately asked me to do something about the family-reunion in Sweden. He told me about the slow process of the migration office and bureaucracy. His wife with two children all was in Syria/ Aleppo he told me that his family should drive thirty minutes from where they lived to find a place with a proper wifi connection to call him every Sunday the day he does not go to SFI school or arbetsförmedlingensaktivti. The migrationsverket booked an appointment for his family in Turkey in Autumn 2018. He told me that he was trying to find a reliable smuggler to smuggle his wife with two from Aleppo to Turkey safely, I stupidly asked why the smugglers? He answered: Syrians need a visa to access Turkey, where can my family apply? There is not any Turkish consulate or embassy in Syria now, and it’s impossible to travel from Aleppo to another country like Lebanon to apply for a Turkish visa, it is not safe but still the only one solution. I asked him what’s about something happened to your family as the information says that Turkish borders police shot a few Syrians they were trying to cross the borders illegally. He pulled a cigarette from his packet and said the Syrian proverb: “A drowning man will catch at a straw. And for me, I am already drowned”.

He did not want to think about the negative things, he wanted to feel only optimistic, he believed that optimism leads to the right stuff.

What is the solution? He asked the migrationsverket many times, not only he had added me to a group on Facebook, it was called in Arabic: Speed up the Family Reunion in Sweden. 31.298 members joined this group; all of them are fathers and mothers came to Sweden alone in the hope that they can collect their children and partners by a visa “safely.”

The last time I checked this group, it was during my writing to this piece. The newest post was written by a Syrian woman she is in Syria now: Hej! I have a question, please. My children and I did the interview in Khartum/ Sudan two weeks ago, and we gave all our documents to the Swedish case officer, and she gave us back all the documents before we left her office. I felt shocked afterward because the case officer has sent us an email she said that she could not find our papers, and she wanted us to send her the documents in three weeks, but I came back to Damascus immediately after the interview. What can I do now?

Every day, tens of the posts like these on the Speed up the Family Reunion in Sweden FB Group, this shows that there is a big problem and complicated between the migrationsverket policy and the complicated political situation of Syria in the same time.

“Some people here they criticise the asylum seekers, why all of them are men? well, we thought that we could protect our women and children from the boat trip and collect them safely, but it seemed that it is harder to leave your family behind you than make the hard journey” The Syrian father said before he left.

By the way, the Afghan guy did not come to the appointment, and he did not answer my phone calls, and his number became out of coverage after. I hope he is fine!

This article has beed translated and published in Swedish in Artikel 14 magazine.

Published by Khaled Alesmael

KHALED ALESMAEL is a multi-awarded journalist, author and sometimes filmmakers. He worked in Syria and the Middle-East for more than fifteen years, was the correspondent for Radio France International/ Arabic from Damascus and the media officer for the risk reduction project/ UNDP Damascus. In 2012, he escaped the war and continued his career in the media in Egypt and Turkey. He apply for asylum in Sweden in 2014 and he got it and became a Swedish citizen in 2018. His works have appeared in the prestigious investigative programs Investigative Mission/ SVT and Conflict Program/ Swedish Radio, and he has been writing for several newspapers and magazines like Ottar in Stockholm and Newstatesman magazine in London. He has also worked for the daily German newspaper as a visiting journalist through the International Journalist Program. He became a Swedish citizen in 2018, and he lives in London now. Selamlik is his debut novel; it came out in August 2018. It has got considerable attention in the Swedish media and positively reviewed: "Selamlik is a prospective classic, a low-key melancholy, and grand book." - Dagens Nyheter “He reminds me of Jean Genet, as brutal as helplessly romantic”. The legendary Swedish gay writer Jonas Gardell for Expressen. “A magnificent account of the Syrian disaster" Sydsvenskan. "Selamlik glances at gates to other worlds" JP. "Khaled Asmael's debut novel about a man's escape from the Damascus gay scene to a refugee center in Europe glides imperceptibly between fantasy, nightmare, and reality" Göteborg Posten.

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