Deported engineer loses court case against Sweden over work permit rejection

Deported engineer loses court case against Sweden over work permit rejection
Ali Omumi at Stockholm District Court. Photo: Rikard Samuelsson/Centrum för rättvisa
An Iranian sales engineer who was forced to leave Sweden over a former employer's error, has not been successful in his attempt to sue the Swedish state for damages.

Stockholm District Court rejected the claims and considered that the authorities were “justified” in expelling ABB engineer Ali Omumi for an insurance defect committed by his former employer. The verdict will be disputed at the Court of Appeal. 

“I am disappointed and do not understand how the district court can come to the conclusion that it was right to force me to leave my job at ABB and deport me and my family. But I look forward to appealing the verdict and continuing the fight against deportations,” says Ali Omumi.

Omumi was expelled from Sweden in the summer of 2018 due to an insurance error made by his former employer.

The deportation took place despite the fact that his existing employment with ABB in Ludvika met all the conditions for a work permit.

A few months after Ali Omumi had been forced to leave Sweden, he applied for a new work permit. But the Migration Agency rejected his application because the authority thought it had come too early, despite the fact that there is no such rule.

After a long court process, Omumi returned to his work at ABB in the autumn of 2019. 

His case became one of the most high-profile out of a series of claims from employees that their work permit renewals were rejected over minor administrative errors. The problem grew so ubiquitous that it became known under its own name as 'talent deportation', or kompetensutvisning in Swedish.

Omumi's situation was even debated in the Swedish parliament after an MP said he read about the engineer in The Local and was also brought up by organisations such as the Diversify Foundation.

Represented by the Centre for Justice, Omumi is the first deported labour migrant to try to sue the state and demand responsibility for the Migration Agency's talent deportations.

But in its judgment on October 12th, 2020, the Stockholm District Court concluded that the authorities were “justified” in their assessments. It explained that the fact a court or agency makes a decision that is then overturned by the appeals court, does not provide enough grounds that the agency has been unjust and therefore warrants compensation.

Alexandra Loyd, lawyer at the Centre for Justice, disagrees. “The talent deportations have caused personal tragedies for those who were deported incorrectly and have been harmful to Sweden. We will appeal this ruling, it is important that the state is held responsible for the Swedish Migration Agency's unreasonable deportation practice,” she said.

EXPLAINED:

In 2017, more than 1,800 people had their work permit extensions rejected by the Migration Agency, after Sweden tightened its rules with the intention of cracking down on dishonest employers taking advantage of foreign labour.

It's not possible to say how many of these rejections were due to minor administrative errors like in Omumi's case, but the number was well over double the figures for previous years, after a 2015 decision from the Migration Court of Appeal led to Swedish authorities interpreting cases on an increasingly strict basis.

But campaigners, media and politicians have been raising awareness of the issue, and in December 2017, the Migration Court of Appeal ruled that work permit renewals should be based on an overall assessment of each case (helhetsbedömning), rather than allowing single, small errors to derail an application.

This was hailed a landmark ruling for work permit holders and on the whole the number of rejections has fallen significantly.

In 2018, 664 people had their work permit renewals rejected, followed by 550 between January 1st and December 8th in 2019, according to figures given to The Local by the Migration Agency. That is a return to the levels seen before 2017, when the issue first started making major headlines in Sweden.


Member comments

  1. Sweden tightened its rules with the intention of cracking down on dishonest employers taking advantage of foreign labour. But in this case the foreign employee is penalized. What happened to that Swedish employer who is actually at fault?

  2. My British-born son’s employer breaks the law by offering no meal or hot drinks preparation area in the workplace.

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