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The reasons for fleeing decide – nothing else!

Bild på IM:s generalsekreterare.

People fleeing from war are people fleeing, regardless of culture, religion, or skin color!

It is now almost six years since Sweden radically changed its refugee policy. Continued “breathing space” and the impending “system collapse” have since dominated the debate. Not many days have passed on social media without former Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt’s words “we must open our hearts” being mocked, ridiculed, or hated. Now, because of Putin’s invasion, it’s relevant again.

Now it seems as if Europe and Sweden are once again prepared, in former Prime Minister Stefan Löfven’s words, “not to build walls”. An overwhelming majority of Sweden’s population is open to receiving people fleeing the war in Ukraine. We recognize it from previous wars and crises. In 2015, the commitment and willingness to receive people on the run was also very large in Sweden.

For those of us who have always stood up for the right to seek asylum when you are forced to flee war or persecution, no matter who you are, this is of course welcome. At the same time, the current situation also shows something else.

When a journalist on the major TV channel CBS says “it’s not Iraq or Afghanistan… this is a relatively civilized, relatively European city”, it gives me an unpleasant feeling. That feeling is not diminished when the TV channel NBC reports “let me put it bluntly, these are not refugees from Syria, these are refugees from neighboring Ukraine, these are Christians, they are white”. Then it becomes very clear how we make a difference between people depending on religion and skin color.

In the Swedish debate, voices are also heard that this is something different than in 2015. Of course it is. No situation where people need to flee from their homes is the same as the other. When it comes to saying that “people from Ukraine have the same culture as Swedes, therefore this is something else” we must be vigilant. There is not a Swedish or a Ukrainian culture, there are lots of Swedish and Ukrainian cultures. But there is only one humanity. When politicians, such as SD in Mölndal, claim that now “it’s about real refugees”, it is clear that for many it is more important where people come from, what religion or skin color they have, than what reasons they have to flee.

IM already in its early statutes from 1944 stated that: “IM works with and for people in need, regardless of race, nation, religious or political beliefs”. Something that was controversial then, but really should not be controversial today.

In its vision and mission, IM still strives for a just and humane world where we want to contribute to lasting change for particularly vulnerable people. It is the degree of vulnerability that determines, never skin color, religion, ethnicity or culture!


By: Malin Kihlström