Sweden’s swift Autumn has come and gone since my last post, so have the Swedish elections. You could say that my excuse for not posting, and Swedish election’s upset, are related.
You’ve probably heard about the Swedish Democrats. They’re conservative nationalists who swept into 20 of 349 Swedish parliamentary seats a few weeks ago. While the name “Swedish Democrats” sounds left, the party is actually far-right — comparible to America’s “Tea Party” — and their platform centers on limiting immigration. Founding members of the party, now regarded for their anti-Muslim rhetoric, publicly brandished Nazi uniforms just twenty years ago.
Most of Sweden was shocked that the SD’s actually got parliamentary seats and a voting influence on policy. Sure, my friends here in Sweden (even the immigrants) acknowledge that immigration poses real and complex choices for Scandinavia, and they’re familiar with their grandparents’ rants. Still they’re still shocked that the bigoted wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing earned parliamentary seats. They’re also thankful, that the other parliamentary parties — the Social Democrats, Center Party, Christian Democrats, etc. — have agreed to lose a few seats to each other, to effectively nullify the Swedish Democrats’ votes. The anti-immigration debate here, like anti-Mexican, anti-Muslim rhetoric in the US, is emerging from the shadows. On the other hand, maybe Sweden won’t have it in the long run. There’s a feeling that apathy and complacency let this happen, and now daily protests against the party signal vociferous opposition in next election.
I suppose I should tell you then about my little immigration drama, even if by now it bores Chesley and me and some people around us to tears. Of course, we’re not victims of ethnic or religious bigotry (even the American embassy mistook me for Swedish.) We’re victims of terribly bureaucratic, inflexible immigration policy. Immigration policy that Swedish Democrats, like those lost souls who patrol the US-Mexico border, would like to see become more stringent, and less flexible.
Last May, Chesley and I applied to Sweden, in accordance with the Migration Board’s laundry list of requirements. At first we were told we were approved, and then told we were denied, because I hadn’t proved payment of my school tuition — never mind that I hadn’t even been invoiced yet from my school, or that it’s not a written Migration Board requirement. We came anyway on tourist visas because I had to start school. From Sweden we submitted an appeal to our rejection which was arbitrated by the Swedish Court. They sent the case back to the Migration Board, saying that the Migration Board should have kicked us out of the country because we came to Sweden with an open visa application. Lots of paperwork ensued. Lots of pleading. Lots of me saying, “what can I do to be allowed to spend my money here for a few more months?” I’ll spare you the boring details, but two days ago when Chesley and I squeezed onto a RyanAir jet for London, we didn’t know if we would be coming back. Finally, yesterday, after corresponding with one of the first human beings we’ve encountered at the Migration Board, Chesley and I were granted our visas.
I’ll say this: I love London. We’re eating really well. I also love Stockholm, not for this experience, but for everything else. We’ll be 100% legal and returning next week. Sometime soon I’ll tell you about this educational utopia called Hyper Island.