Paperless Immigrants and Refugees in Sweden Living in Fear of “Mos Maiorum” Virus
From today, Monday, 13th October 2014 until Monday, 27th October 2014 in Sweden, any non-white person can be stopped by police in the streets, inside and outside train stations, inside the train, at shopping centers and at any other public place to be asked for identification.
More scary is that police can knock on any door and claim that they have a tip that an illegal immigrant aka paperless person is living at the address. If you are the owner of the house and you just lost your ID, you will, most certainly, be taken in “for investigations” to establish your status before being released. In fact, if you have a visa that has expired, you will most likely, hit home base with the next flight so pack all your stuff neatly just in case! This is the new Sweden.
The program is called “Mos Maiorum”, an Italian instigated pan-EU project intended to round up “illegal immigrants” and “refugees in the underground” to be caged ahead of deportation to their home countries. As a member of the European Union, Sweden has accepted to participate in the project, a move that has created a major uproar within the immigrant community, refugee groups, radical politicians and human rights activists.
The program comes hot on the heels of another failed program called REVA which empowered police to stop any “suspected illegal immigrant” or refugee to be checked and, if found paperless, locked before deportation. According to Malin Björk, a Parliamentarian of the Left Party, “Mos Maiorum is REVA on steroids”
Although the stated purpose of Mos Maiorum (which is Latin and means ancient custom or unwritten law) is to “gather information in order to identify illegal immigrant smuggling and to identify and prosecute organized criminals”, Björk has argued that there is already enough mechanism to gather such information. Björk says that such work can be conducted through Frontex, an EU boarder agency that includes the so called “debriefing team” which interviews people in the refugee camps to track their routes and to try and nab human smugglers.
Apart from igniting memories of the ill-fated REVA, Mos Maiorum has rekindled debate about an illegal and secretive racial profiling of the “Roma people” aka Gypsies by Swedish police, a program which saw Roma people categorized in police records under circumstances that fitted racial profiling.
This time round, non-white people are the main targets of Mos Maiorum and it will be impossible for the Swedish police to implement the program without the police being seen as racist.
Patrik Engstrom, Deputy Head of the border police, told Aftonbladet newspaper that people will not be stopped by police for identification based on skin colour. “According to the law, it is not allowed to stop someone based on their appearance”, Engström said, adding that “We must have a valid reason, a tip, conduct or behavior, and so we carry out checks in combination with other police work, like drunk driving controls”.
Linguistically speaking, the Swedish police are well trained in covering up controversial or potentially racist police activities using acceptable phraseology and anonymous citing of the law to add credibility to the explanation. Why?
Rule of engagement
Because it is already the rule of engagement that when a person is stopped for any suspected offence (drunken driving, strange conduct or behaviour etc) the first thing the suspect is usually requested by police to do is to produce an identification document. Consequently, the police does not need to put Mos Maiorum in motion to establish the legal status of a person in Sweden. The main purpose of Mos Maiorum is to enable police to stop anybody (read non-white) to be asked for identification.
Just like any immigrant or refugee in Sweden will testify, the so called undocumented aka paperless immigrants are almost impossible to be caught by police under current circumstances unless police breaks the law. This is because this group rarely engage in petty crimes like drunken driving, shop-lifting, peeing by the road side, creating a disturbance in a public environment, spitting at a public place, consuming alcohol at prohibited places, smoking in public, excessive partying in pubs (where security guards ask for IDs at the door), engaging in a fight, raping women, doing drugs, being present at a crime scene, or running down the train station without a valid ticket.
With or without papers, and with thousands of surveillance cameras mounted at every corner, street, train wagon, shop, toilet environments, ATM machines, public buses and any other public place, anybody engaging in any sort of crime (especially in urban areas) run the risk of being caught to face justice.
The underlying point is that although the number of the “paperless” continues to grow in Sweden, the police are increasingly being unable to catch their prey because of high discipline among the paperless. For this reason, the “unwritten law” in Mos Maiorum is to enable police to stop ANYBODY (an illegal act that does not exist under current Swedish law) and hope that they have their prey.
It is unfortunate that the implementation of this program is coming at a time when the Swedish Democrats (SD), an open racist Party calling for the expulsion of all immigrants from Sweden, has just made a big electoral advance in the just concluded Swedish national elections. Stopping refugees from coming to Sweden and spot checks of IDs by police (of non whites) was a constantly recurring theme of SD’s anti-immigrant propaganda during campaigns. It is therefore ironical that a Social Democratic government is implementing a policy that was principally being championed by a hard-core Neo-Nazi party whose program is teething with racist policies.
As Mos Maiorum gets into motion, the paperless have cause to worry. Interestingly, the Social Democratic party that has just come to power under a platform of reform, has so far refused to take a stand on the question of Mos Maiorum. According to the Press Secretary of the Interior Minister, Anders Ygeman who made a written response to Aftonbladet newspaper:
“It is the police who decide whether to participate in operational activities and how participation should look like. Controls are a natural part of police work. Police have regulations of internal immigration controls that will prevent the controls from being conducted in a manner that is ethnically discriminatory”, wrote Yegman.
For now, those concerned can only wait until December 11th 2014, time when the result of Mos Maiorum will be presented. The project is the 7th operation of its kind against undocumented immigrants in EU.
In September last year, operation “Perkunas”, another racist operation that openly discriminated against non-white people, was conducted and when the result was presented, the State was happy to announce that it had netted 10,459 undocumented immigrants who were stopped by police, nabbed and deported to their home countries.
What was never published is the number of victims who were stopped using the so called “valid reasons” or the number of tips that were received by the police ahead of arrests and deportation. As the paperless dig deeper into their fox holes in the deeper underground, it is a wait and see game before the count of the unlucky ones is presented in December. Living in Sweden without papers has just become tougher!