Swedish Migration Board Bans Freedom of Expression- - - - - - - - -
The Swedish Migration Board has demoted — and in practice fired — Asylum Assessment Manager Lennart Eriksson, 51, for voicing support for democracies such as Israel and the USA on his personal website. The Migration Board has not alleged that Eriksson’s personal beliefs have in any way affected the quality of his work, nor is it alleged that he has behaved in any way inappropriately while at work, acknowledging that he manages his website entirely in his own private time. It is for his political beliefs that he is being persecuted. Eriksson is a Conservative.
Lennart Eriksson, 51, has worked at the Swedish Migration Board in Göteborg in western Sweden in a variety of positions for almost 20 years. He is a Conservative in his personal political affiliations and has for many years managed his own Internet website where he has expressed his personal opinions on a variety of subjects. On this website Lennart Eriksson has voiced support for Israel and the USA as pillars of democracy. His employers have known about the website for many years.
Conservative politics “not mainstream”
Over the past five years, up to September 2007, Lennart Eriksson served as manager of an asylum assessment unit. On his return from a year-long leave of absence during which he completed his doctoral thesis, he was immediately called to a meeting with the newly appointed operational manager. The manager informed Eriksson that he had seen his website and that Lennart Eriksson’s Conservative views were both “unusual” and controversial. The manager was particularly opposed to Lennart Eriksson’s support for Israel and the USA and his online description of WW2 US general George Patton as one of the heroes of the Second World War. Lennart Eriksson was then summarily informed that he had been demoted.
In response, Lennart Eriksson sued the Swedish Migration Board in county court. Eriksson’s view is that he has in practice been fired from his job as asylum assessment unit manager, camouflaged in the form of a transfer. Lennart Eriksson feels that whatever the final legal outcome regarding the terminology — demotion or transfer — there is no cause for this move. The Migration Board confirms that Lennart Eriksson has been transferred as a result of the opinions he expressed on his private website. Opinions that are not against anything, but rather for certain beliefs — Conservative politics and democratic countries, specifically Israel and the USA.
Freedom of expression in danger in Sweden
The right to freely express opinions on political, cultural and social issues without risk of reprisal is the very foundation of a democratic society. Freedom of expression, which is protected in Sweden by the Constitution, does not provide unlimited freedoms but it is a very far-reaching right indeed. The opinions that Lennart Eriksson expresses are based in their entirety on a strong democratic foundation whose cornerstone is an unassailable conviction of every individual’s equal human value. Lennart Eriksson’s opinions are politically Conservative. These opinions may naturally be disputed within certain quarters, not least among a largely left-leaning media. They may not always be regarded as politically correct in a society where there is a strong innate tendency to conformity. However, these views are nonetheless shared to a large extent by the entire Swedish government, a coalition that includes a large number of Conservatives. A long history of Social Democratic control at the helm of the nation and of the Swedish Migration Board, however, has left a very firm imprint on both the nation’s media and various state departments — not least the Migration Board.
Political persecution is not easily identified in a country where generations of citizens have been brought up to hear that this sort of thing does not occur in Sweden. If someone in another country had suffered the treatment to which Lennart Eriksson has been subjected — the more so in a State-run and State-funded department — the victim would in fact have been entitled to seek and thus be granted political asylum in Sweden.
The Swedish Migration Board fulfils a vital social function. Protecting human rights and offering asylum to victims of persecution are among the Board’s central roles. However, the Swedish Migration Board reveals that it will not hesitate to pursue its own employees for their political beliefs. Consequently, the Swedish Migration Board’s credibility in its everyday operations — operations of immense sensitivity to the nation’s security — is being rapidly undermined and risks total collapse.
By supporting an operational manager who displays a remarkable lack of education, an embarrassing shortfall in historical perspective and a penchant for prejudice coloured by personal political belief, the Swedish Migration Board has diluted the democratic nature of one of Europe’s oldest democracies.
For more information about this case, the media are requested to contact:
Ilya Meyer, phone +46 31 694431, 426 68 Västra Frölunda, Sweden.
Fax: +46 31 690486