My "Anniversary Effect"
The Anniversary Effect is a psychological phenomena of of disturbing feelings, thoughts or memories that occur on or around a date that marks a significant event. As of today, Ali Omumi's civil rights campaign to stop kompetensutvisning has been going on for 3 years. Is it finally over? Issues with Permanent Residency for kompetensutvisning survivors, may prove otherwise
This screenshot is my very first Facebook post after my family and I received the ruling from the Migration Court (Migrationsdomstolen), 3 years ago today - on May 6th.
The feeling of receiving a deportation notice is the most powerful loneliness, helplessness, and fear you can imagine. I came out to the Swedish public with my story and I was surrounded by support.
This post went “viral" in Sweden, with 8.4k reactions, 3.1k comments, and 4.7k shares. I managed to attract so many people’s attention since then, including the highest management at ABB Sweden, political parties, Matt Kriteman, who at that time was with The Diversify Foundation, and of course so many Swedes who couldn’t find any common sense in my deportation.
I felt like I was given a voice; I was heard as a professional and my fight for others like me, and ultimately for a better Sweden, was encouraged. We worked hard to make it in Sweden, and to be honest, I wanted my new home to be a better place. #SwedenDeservesBetter. At Almedalen that year, I was invited by ABB to speak at their tent along with Peter Alestig, the journalist who coined the term, "kompetensutvisning" which was officially added to the Swedish language. I was interviewed by several journalists.
Regardless, after Almedalen our appeal was denied and we were deported.
Shortly after this post, in August 3 years ago, together with my wife and daughter we boarded a plane thinking we could rapidly return with the full support of all those in Sweden who showed love and support. But we weren’t allowed to. For a year and a half, we were forced to live in exile although we had committed no crime. Rather than sit and complain, as always, I worked to make things better.
Together with Matt, we did everything possible to publish the old survey from Diversify and communicate it with our message, from our perspective, for all the internationals living through this. When we finally made it and had an article published in Forbes, deportations dropped month-to-month by 52%.
All the politicians, business leaders and lawyers I know acknowledge this was a turning point on this issue, although no one gave us the credit. Meanwhile, the trauma that my family and I endured while living in exile from Sweden for a year and a half taught me that no one heals easily from this. But as always, I carry on.
Forgive me if I sound dramatic, but as we all desperately wait for the winter to end and for the Swedish summer to bring a potential end to COVID, I am very worried about September 11th.
Twenty years ago, I watched in horror as a disgusting act of terrorism shook the entire world, and maybe changed it forever. 9/11 was a setback for humanity, for sure. For people like me who leave a home country in search of a life where their children could grow up free from religious extremism, it was also a setback. We have worked so hard to prove our competency and value and to be accepted as professionals in the west, and would have to work harder.
However, this September 11th is also, ironically, the day that my work permit in Sweden expires.
My concern is very specific: as I extend my current permit, will Migrationsverket grant me permanent residency? Or, will I have to find a new home (again)? This has happened to some other kompetensutvisning survivors, i.e., coming back according to the rules and getting deported because you don't 'qualify' for permanent residency. The majority of cases never make it to the press, either because the people are too scared to ‘go public, or because the newspapers simply won’t publish kompetensutvisning stories anymore. Both are realities I regularly see first-hand.
And I wonder, “what more do I have to do?”.
After 3 years of fighting to earn my place, being (illegally) denied coming back, countless interviews with the Swedish media, I do almost the same job for the same employer, in the same city, and I am still stuck with the same concern.
Along the way, I have volunteered endlessly to help others in this situation and help them share their story too with a simple message: we are also humans, we deserve better. Sweden deserves better.
After three years of fighting to earn my place, being (illegally) denied coming back, countless interviews with the Swedish media, I do almost the same job for the same employer in the same city, and I am still stuck with the same concern. Along the way, I have volunteered endlessly to help others in this situation and help them share their story too with a simple message: we are also humans, we deserve better. Sweden deserves better. It is a beautiful experience to see people from all over come together and show themselves as international professionals. And I am so grateful for them, but every single time I see their trauma, I relive my own.
And yet, I still ask the same questions:
1) Who wins from kompetensutvisning?
2) Who loses if international professionals can stay instead of getting deported for someone else’s mistake?
I now have a 3rd question:
3) After more than five years of kompetensutvisning, why are the decision-makers so afraid to just stop it?
To me, the answers look to be very much correlated.
And to be honest, there are times when I ask myself the question: “Why don’t I just give up?” The amount of suffering we have endured is severe. The way this issue has polarized and politicized this issue has been degrading. Why not just leave?
Even in the darkest times, when I doubt myself and how hard I’ve worked to stop this, the same voice inside me still lets me know. This is for my family. We left our country so our daughters can grow up in a safe place, as strong, independent women, free from oppression and discrimination. We have worked so hard to build that life for our family; Sweden is like our life-savings investment. That’s why. And there are so many other amazing people who I’ve met along the way who did the same.
Free from politics, investors, and the current circus in politics, Real People is growing faster than we ever imagined.
So, together with my longtime partner Matt Kriteman - we have decided to do the most Swedish thing possible and start a digital labor movement for anyone who identifies as an ‘international professional’. For us to organize ourselves, to be respected and included in the Swedish Model as international professionals. As Real People.
Free from politics, investors, and the current circus in politics, Real People is growing faster than we ever imagined. We have hundreds of international professionals registered, from kompetensutvisning survivors, foreign talent, students, asylum seekers, new Swedes and ‘Real Swedes’ who “keep it real” with inclusion.
Our first project is launching a survey on the new proposal by the government for talent attraction and stopping kompetensutvisning. Our registration data already shows there are many other international professionals like me who have worked and paid taxes for over four years as international professionals. Their top priority is permanent residency and the safety that was advertised to us when we came to Sweden.
So, once again, we are building a new, updated survey for our members to have a voice on PUT (permanent uppehållstillstånd) and the other topics about us - but rarely with us.
Like me, there are many others who worked hard for this country, who have committed no crimes and feel that Sweden, a global leader in inclusion and equality, deserves better.
So while I wait for September 11th, we will continue to make sure that other professionals have the chance to be included in the Swedish Model, as Real People. We will also have an event celebrating the best employers of international professionals, who ‘walk the talk’ when it comes to Diversity & Inclusion. I think at the very least, that's what Sweden deserves.
Join us at https://www.real-people.se/
1. I have worked and paid for Permanent Residency in Sweden according to the law - worked and paid taxes with no criminal record in 4 years out of 7. Many others have as well, we should be given PUT, as was originally advertised to us. Sweden Deserves Better.
Area Sales Manager, ABB Hitachi
Co-Founder / CMO / Chief Kompetensutvisning Survivor, Real People
Note: Current legislative proposals argue for issuing another temporary work permit, instead of issuing permanent residency and/or deporting someone who doesn't 'qualify for permanent residency.'
Real People argues that according to the law, those who have worked for 4 years out of 7 (according to the law), and who are not criminals should be granted permanent residency.