Christopher from Sweden about refugees' and migrants' situation

6. How does corona affect the situation of refugees or migrants in your country?

More than four million Swedes are voluntarily involved in one of the country's 250,000 organizations. In addition, just over 180,000 people are employed in the non-profit sector. Organizations are now adapting to meet the challenges that follow in the footsteps of the pandemic, and many people want to get involved in contributing. At the same time, the corona pandemic is striking hard against the ability for people to help those in need when activities such as language trainings, food distribution, elderly meetings and homework help are canceled and volunteers need to stay at home.

I work for an organization called Forum – the National Forum for Voluntary Organizations. We are an umbrella organization for civil society organizations working within the social sphere in Sweden. Our aim is to strengthen civil society organizations in Sweden through opinion formation, capacity building and by acting as an intermediary for volunteer engagement through Volontärbyrån (the volunteer agency of Sweden).

Many of our member organizations support migrants and refugees through different social activities such as language trainings, legal counsel and leisure activities. Many of these activities have had to be cancelled and we worry about the effect this has on integration and mental health.

The effects of the corona pandemic also impact the possibility of gaining residence permit for unaccompanied minors who came to Sweden 2015 seeking asylum. On June 7, 2018, the so-called upper secondary school law was adopted, which meant a new opportunity for approximately 9,000 unaccompanied young people seeking asylum to gain temporary residency. The only possibility of obtaining a permanent residence permit after completing upper secondary school today is through employment. The applicant must show a fixed employment of at least 2 years within 6 months after completing upper secondary school. Since Corona has had large implications for many of the businesses that usually employ young people, it is expected that this will target unaccompanied minors in particular. Mental and physical ill-health is already widespread in the group and is now at risk of worsening when access to meeting places and support measures is limited due to the coronavirus.

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