I already knew that the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers in Australia was horrible. However, actually seeing how positive Sweden is towards them highlights it all the more.
We’ve begun our internship, with our third session today. It isn’t at all what I was expecting, and at first I was rather dubious, but I’m finding that it is actually very interesting. I was expecting to be in one place, doing some sort of work, for the entirety of the thirty hours. Instead, we’re doing somewhere between two and five hours in a variety of different places. I am a bit disappointed that instead of getting any work experience, we’re only being introduced to the places, and having discussions with the people we meet there, but at the same time it’s interesting to see all the support available for refugees.
The first place we went, I have forgotten the name of, but it’s the first place both immigrants and refugees are directed to after they’ve been to the migration board. They run a series of classes which provide information on life in Sweden, in a variety of languages. They teach the newly arrived how to find work and/or education, where to learn Swedish, the laws of the country, attitudes and the lifestyle, where to find schools for children, and much more. We discussed the differences between Australia and Sweden, and the two women we talked to were both shocked by the Australian system, with one of them replying something along the lines of, ‘What, they’re just put on islands?’
Our second session was just a brief introduction to the city of Malmö. We were told about the role of the city council, and how it is structured, as well as given information on programs to help with integration, and the protection of the rights of the five national minorities (Roma, Sami, descendants of the Torne Valley, Swedish-Finns, and Jews).
Today, I was really looking forward to. We went to a PTSD support centre for refugees. We weren’t there very long, and didn’t get to see as much as I had hoped, but it was interesting nonetheless. They provide support and counselling for refugees who are suffering from PTSD. Often they are referred to from their Swedish for Immigrants (SFI) classes, when teachers realise that they aren’t making any progress. We were told yesterday how there was a problem with a lot of refugees, who after a year or two of classes still hadn’t made much progress. They realised that this was because many of the students were suffering from PTSD, making it difficult for them to remember the language, and difficult to concentrate in class.
The Swedish, for the most part, seem to view refugees in a much more positive light than the majority of Australians. Even if a person doesn’t care much for the human rights aspect of the issue, they realise that it is better to look at refugees as an investment, rather than a cost. The more help which is provided to them, and the quicker they are able to become integrated into the labour market, the sooner they will be making a positive contribution to the economy and the society (because, as our economic sociology lecturer is always telling us, you cannot study one without the other). A point the person we met with at the centre made, which is very relevant to Australia, and this is just one example of the possible benefits of refugees, is that we need workers to take care of the elderly. I think this point of view would be much better to have in Australia, than the view that all refugees do is drain our resources. If the media and the politicians stopped focussing on the cost of refugees, and rather focussed on the benefit (and let’s not even mention the fact that processing someone offshore costs more than processing someone onshore anyway), it would help Australia to become a more accepting place.