Swedish Immigration Officials Criticized

Karl Ritter, AP, Dec. 22, 2005

STOCKHOLM, Sweden—Sweden’s immigration authority was facing harsh criticism Thursday after media reported that employees celebrated deportations of asylum-seekers with cakes and champagne.

The scandal triggered calls for the head of the Migration Board to step down and raised concerns about how asylum-seekers are treated in the Scandinavian country, which prides itself on being a safe haven for refugees.

A manager of a regional office in southern Sweden was suspended as the Migration Board investigated reports that she invited staff for cake last year to celebrate the deportation of a family that was not granted asylum in Sweden, board spokeswoman Berit Olsson said.

The agency was also investigating a similar incident in Solna, a suburb of Stockholm, where employees reportedly celebrated with champagne after a Russian family was sent home.

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The nation of 9 million people grants asylum to people classified as refugees according to U.N. standards. It also accepts non-refugees in need of protection from persecution, war or natural disasters, or people suffering from life-threatening diseases.

In 2004, the biggest groups of asylum-seekers in Sweden came from Serbia-Montenegro, Iraq and Russia, according to Migration Board statistics.

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