‘I’m being deported because I didn’t take vacation, but Sweden is my home’

'I'm being deported because I didn't take vacation, but Sweden is my home'
Ganesh Bista with his wife and two children. Photo: Private
A restaurant worker who has lived in Sweden for five years has been ordered to leave the country because he didn't take enough holiday at a previous job. But his former employer assured him he was complying with Swedish rules, Ganesh Bista told The Local.

The 44-year-old first arrived in Sweden in 2013, and is currently working as a cook at a restaurant in Vänersborg, a town north of Gothenburg on the shores of Lake Vänern. His wife, who moved to Sweden a year after him, is a part-owner of the same restaurant and the couple have bought an apartment nearby. Their two children, aged nine and 13, attend the local school and have settled in to life in Sweden.

“I always thought Sweden was a nice country. I came here because I wanted to work, and it's my home now,” said Bista.

But in October 2017, more than a year after the family moved to Vänersborg, Bista's application to renew his work permit was rejected by the Swedish Migration Agency. In the decision, seen by The Local, the agency ordered Bista to leave Sweden for Nepal within just four weeks. 

The reason was that he had not taken sufficient annual leave during his employment in Stockholm, but the Nepali citizen says he was not aware of this regulation.

“In my contract, my boss told me that instead of taking holiday I had semesterersättning, so every three months I got extra money along with my salary,” Bista explained.

“I didn't have any idea I was supposed to take holiday, I would have been glad to take holiday,” Bista told The Local. “But everyone said that if you work more and pay more tax, that's a good thing, and my employer always said that they knew the rules better than us and they were doing things right.”

FOR MEMBERS: In depth: Why is Sweden deporting its foreign professionals?

The cook argues that he contributes a lot to Swedish society, both by working and paying tax and by integrating into the community in his new town. In his current job in Vänersborg, Bista says he has followed Swedish regulations on vacation allowance.

What's more, he says he has nothing to go back to if forced to return to Nepal. His children have settled in to Sweden and do not have friends in their birth country, while Bista and his wife sold their assets back home after a devastating earthquake in 2015.

He says that since receiving the rejection, his health has suffered. He has been diagnosed with diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure: “I will have to take medicine for the rest of my life now.”

Bista has appealed the decision at an administrative court, but his appeal was rejected. He is now working with a lawyer in the hope that the Migration Court of Appeal – which has the final say in such cases – will take up his case.

“Salary, insurance cover and other working conditions may not be worse than those in the Swedish collective agreement or the norm for the branch or industry,” wrote the Migration Agency in its initial decision.

In Bista's case, the agency observed that although the holiday supplement (semesterersättning) had been paid regularly, no time off had been taken. It said therefore that the rejection was due to the fact “your employer cannot be considered to have fulfilled the employment conditions that were agreed to in the employment offer and on the basis of which your earlier permit was approved”.

The agency also said in its initial decision that Bista had not provided sufficient proof of the correct insurance cover; he told The Local that after re-submitting documents from his insurance provider, he was told these were in order but his application would still be rejected due to the lack of holiday.

When contacted by The Local, a press officer at the Migration agency said she could not comment on individual cases, but noted that all employment contracts should follow the Swedish law regulating annual. “Unfortunately, even if he was not aware of this law, he has to check and follow the rules,” she said.

READ ALSO: Should employers be asked to compensate deported workers?

As The Local has reported previously, many of Sweden's foreign professionals have faced hurdles in getting work permits extended – despite significant sectors of the Swedish economy relying on international talent.

In a judgment last December hailed as a success for foreign workers, Sweden's Migration Court of Appeal ruled that work permit decisions should be made on an overall assessment of each case, rather than allowing small mistakes that employers had tried to rectify lead to automatic rejection.

Since then, there have been several individual victories: an Iraqi man facing deportation for failing to take sufficient holiday was allowed to stay in Sweden, and a Syrian computer programmer was able to return to her Stockholm job following her deportation to Greece.

But others have still had their permit extensions rejected over apparently minor errors. An MP submitted a formal parliamentary question about the issue after The Local wrote about the case of a sales engineer facing deportation because a previous employer had made an error over his health insurance.

READ ALSO: How Sweden's deportations of skilled workers are affecting internationals

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