Migration Board: ‘Hamas is a liberation movement’

A Swedish Migration Board (Migrationsverket) employee with 20 years' experience sued his employers alleging that he was demoted due to his pro-Israel political views. The board's counsel in the hearing has courted controversy by calling Hamas 'a liberation movement.'

Migration Board: 'Hamas is a liberation movement'

The Local reported back in February 2008 that Lennart Eriksson, 51, after a ‘long and relatively happy’ career at the Migration Board (Migrationsverket), had been demoted from his post as head of an asylum assessment unit.

Eriksson sued the Board alleging that he was moved to a lower ranking position when his supervisor, Eugene Palmer, learned of his pro-Israel views expressed on his blog, Sapere aude!

“I want to defend freedom and democracy. I try to be humble and just. Therefore I must—as every good democrat must—defend Israel,” read a passage on Eriksson’s blog.

Palmer said at the time that after learning of Eriksson’s controversial blog he was not alone in questioning whether it was appropriate for someone with Eriksson’s position at the Board to publicly express opinions about such a sensitive topic.

“Of course everyone has a right to any opinion. However, when holding an upper-level management position at the Migration Board, one must be careful about how one chooses to express private opinions in a public fashion,” Palmer told The Local.

Staffan Opitz, representing the Migration Board at the hearing held at the district court in Mölndal, said during court proceedings on Friday, October 10th that Palestinian group Hamas should be considered a ‘liberation movement’.

Opitz added that its founder Yassin was a ‘Palestinian freedom-fighter’, according to a report in Dagen, a Christian website.

The comments have further called into question the neutrality of the Migration Board.

Christian Democrat MP Annelie Enochson has now asked the foreign minister, Carl Bildt, what he intends to do to ensure that public authorities do not forward political agendas significantly different from government policy.

While conceding that it was not a minister’s job to engage in the detail of how a public authority operates, Enochson pointed out that Hamas has been classified by the (Swedish) government and the EU as a terror organisation.

“The statement from the Migration Board is therefore not in line with current government policy,” Enochson argued in a press release on Friday.

“The Swedish government stands for Israel’s right to exist while Hamas through armed struggle wants to obliterate Israel and has the goal of liberating Palestine and Israel from the Jews. The question is whether it is the Migration Board’s task to push its own foreign policy agenda.”

The Migration Board’s official position in the hearing at Mölndal district court, which concluded on Monday, October 13th, was that Eriksson’s reassigment was due to poor performance and a lack of confidence in his abilities.

Lennart Eriksson hopes that the court will rule in his favour and force the Migration Board to nullify its decision and reinstate him.

He is also seeking damages of 100,000 kronor ($15,850) plus interest.

The verdict in the trial will be announced on Monday, November 10th 2008.