Ambassador ‘concerned’ over sudden Roma influx

Sweden's ambassador in Belgrade has expressed concern over the number of Serbian citizens seeking asylum in Sweden in the wake of a recent relaxation of visa restrictions.

“There are currently 770 Serbian citizens in Sweden, most of whom are Roma, who are requesting political asylum,” Swedish ambassador in Belgrade Krister Bringeus was quoted as saying in the Danas daily.

“All 770 people came to Sweden in last two months, which is equal to the number of people that came to the country during the whole of last year. We are very concerned over the situation,” Bringeus said.

“None of them will be granted asylum and all will be sent back home in the coming days under an emergency procedure,” he added.

Sweden is the second EU state after Belgium to have raised an alarm over an influx of asylum seekers since the European Union lifted visa restrictions for citizens of Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia in December.

They are now allowed to travel freely into the Schengen zone which covers a majority of EU countries.

According to figures from Belgium, 58 ethnic Albanians sought asylum there in January and the number swelled to 330 in February.

Serbia has said it would take back all those who sought asylum in accordance with agreements on readmission it signed with EU member states.

Interior Minister Ivica Dacic said Serbia would open a probe into the case, as the asylum seekers had been organised. According to local media reports travel agents set up bus tours to EU countries luring locals with stories that they would get political asylum, a job and a house there.

Macedonia and Serbia have agreed to investigate the possibility of prosecuting the organisers of the bus lines, Dacic told the Beta news agency.

The first bus carrying failed Serbian and Macedonian asylum seekers back from Belgium was expected to arrive in the towns of Presevo and Kumanovo respectively later.

The bus is carrying more than 40 people who have all agreed to withdraw their asylum requests and return home voluntarily.

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Reader question: How do you meet the requirements for a sambo visa?

In Sweden, a sambo is domestic partner – someone you’re in a relationship with and live with, but to whom you aren’t married. If you, as a non-EU citizen, are in a sambo relationship with a Swedish citizen, you can apply for a residence permit on the basis of that relationship. But meeting the requirements of that permit is not always straightforward.

Reader question: How do you meet the requirements for a sambo visa?

An American reader, whose son lives with his Swedish partner, wrote to The Local with questions about the maintenance requirement her son and his partner must meet in order to qualify for a sambo resident permit.

“Their specific issue is that they meet the requirements for a stable relationship and stable housing, but have been told that qualifying for a sambo visa based on savings is unlikely,” she wrote, asking for suggestions on how to approach this issue. Her son’s partner is a student with no income, but whose savings meet maintenance requirements. But, they have been told by lawyers that Migrationsverket will likely deny the application based on the absence of the Swedish partner’s income.

How do relationships qualify for sambo status?

In order to apply for a residence permit on the basis of a sambo relationship, you and your partner must either be living together, or plan to live together as soon as the non-Swedish partner can come to Sweden. Because this reader’s son is already in Sweden as a graduate student, he can apply for a sambo permit without having to leave the country, provided that his student permit is still valid at the time the new application is submitted.

The Migration Agency notes that “you can not receive a residence permit for the reason that you want to live with a family member in Sweden before your current permit expires”. So once your valid permit is close to expiration, you can apply for a new sambo permit.

What are the maintenance requirements for a sambo permit?

The maintenance requirements for someone applying for a sambo permit fall on the Swedish partner, who must prove that they are able to support both themselves and their partner for the duration of the permit. This includes both housing and financial requirements.

In terms of residential standards that applicants must meet, they must show that they live in a home of adequate size – for two adult applicants without children, that means at least one room with a kitchen. If rented, the lease must be for at least one year.

The financial requirements are more complicated. The Swedish partner must be able to document a stable income that can support the applicant and themselves – for a sambo couple, the 2022 standard is an income of 8,520 kronor per month. This burden falls on the Swedish partner.

While the Migration Agency’s website does say that you may “fulfil the maintenance requirement (be considered able to support yourself) if you have enough money/taxable assets to support yourself, other persons in your household and the family members who are applying for a residence permit for at least two years”, it is unclear how proof of this would be documented. On a separate page detailing the various documents that can be used to prove that maintenance requirements are met, there is nothing about how to document savings that will be used to support the couple.

Can you apply on the basis of savings instead of income?

Well, this is unclear. The Migration Agency’s website does suggest that having enough money saved up to support both members of the sambo relationship is an option, but it gives no details on how to document this. It is also unclear whether applying on the basis of savings will disadvantage applicants, with preference given to applicants who can show proof of income from work.

The Local has reached out to an immigration lawyer to answer this question.