HUNGER AND RELIGIOUS LESSONS IN SWEDISH CAMPS

HUNGER AND RELIGIOUS LESSONS IN SWEDISH CAMPS
Investigations | 20 Oct 2014

He escapes the “deadly” boredom of life in the Swedish camp by sleeping for long hours. Hazem is impatiently awaiting the moment when he will receive his residency permit in order to be free. He can neither work, rent his own home, nor perform any other activity before obtaining residency—especially since he has no identification papers. 

He says: "They do not stop us from leaving the camp, but the amount you get is not even enough to take you to the city nearest to our Camp in the Skurup region; as transportation costs are very expensive. How would we be able to rent a house or learn the language at our own expense?” 

He points out that free language classes conducted by the Red Cross are not a big help, as they only focus on the basics of the language and are only offered once a week. 

 

Fourteen hours without food 

There are several types of refugee camps in Sweden. The best among which are the “immigration” apartments—namely standard normal apartments leased by the Department of Immigration and wherein the person or the family may live, pending their receipt of their residency documents. Each refugee receives 71 Kroner per day, with an "lma" card, which grants refugees access to many price reductions. The amount varies depending on age, down to 9 Kroner for a young childone Kroner is approximately equivalent to 25 Syrian pounds. 

There are no specific regulations governing the number of people sharing a single family home. Bashir, a dentist, for example shares a house consisting of three rooms with six people from different nationalities; while Mustafa resides alone with his mother in an “Immigration” apartment. 

Mustafa confirms that the amount they receive is not enough to buy all their daily requirements, such as food and cleaning materials. He tries to give an idea of price levels: "a pack of cigarettes will cost 50 Kroner, One Kilo of meat 60, a pizza 70, and a Pepsi 15 Kroner." 

Mustafa believes that the financial situation of the inhabitants of camps or hotels designated for reception of refugees is better, despite the fact a person receives no more than 24 Kroner per day; as they would have three meals a day.

Khaldoun who actually lives in a camp collective, however, suffers from hunger every night, and is forced to buy some canned foods with the meager amount he receives. The last daily meal is offered at five in the afternoon, which means that residents stay more than 14 hours without food.

Changing the place of residence, or moving from room to room within the  a camp is difficult. When Hazem asked, the person responsible replied: "We receive 2,200 refugees per week, and we can not treat everyone as they wish." 

Hazem shares a mid-sized room with six people, some of whom smoke while others sleep late. Not to mention the lack of cleanliness of the shared bathrooms: "There are six hundred people in the Camp, and only ten laundry machines! Some guests have little care for cleanliness, which worsens the situation; despite the fact that bathrooms are cleaned twice a day."  

 

A Negative Image of Syrians! 

Treatment by some other camp residents can also sometimes be disturbing, as witnessed by Khaldun. On one occasion he was approached by a religious person while sitting in the canteen, who admonished him, "Why are you wearing this low-cut sweater? Are you not aware of the presenve of women in the camp?" Commenting on this incident, Khaldun said: "I did not expect this to happen to me—not in this country of freedoms! I was used to wearing these clothes in Syria, and no one ever criticized me because of it there." 

He adds: "One of the guests once stood in the camp hallway, near the chapel, and started forcing passers-by in for prayers and loudly scolding them; as well as making loud calls to prayer in the aisle from time to time. Sometimes other people hold religious lessons inside the rooms." 

Khaldun, who worked in the field of IT networks, considers that "these actions give a negative image of Syrians; especially that the Camp comprises people from different religions and races, who usually do not do such things… they have fears of the Islamists, as a result of what they see in the media and ISIS' activities and actions."

 Stop Being Presumptuous!

Yasmin chose to seek refuge in Sweden, because she had heard from her friends that the situation in the camps was better than the rest of the European countries. She says she did not regret her decision, because the Swedes treat her very kindly. 

She now lives with her mother in a farm-like Camp near Malmo—a place that is beautiful, serene, and calming to the spirit, as she describes it. Yasmin identifies the only problem both of them are facing, is the presence of four other girls with them in their unit; despite the fact that a family usually gets a room alone. She concludes by saying: "Anyway, we are refugeeswe shouldn’t be presumptuous!" 

The period of residence in the camp usually extends between two and 11 months. If finding accommodation is delayed beyond that, a person has the right to sue to accelerate it. Mustafa, however, notes that there are no clear rules in this regard, as "there are those who arrived after I have, but who have received their residence permits before me."

The responsibility of the Department of Immigration ends after obtaining residency. The refugee then becomes the responsibility of the Refugee Work Bureau. The salary increases at this stage, the refugee is enrolled in a language school, the state will help him in finding a home for rent, and will provide for the payment of the bulk of the costs. 

Some people with the financial means leave the camp before obtaining their residency, and rent a house illegally—or what is known as “in the black”—says Mustafa. In this case they may lose the chance to return to the Camp, however, if they are forced to leave their new homes.


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