Stones Where Hearts Should Be

Shame on you, Sweden, how could you be so cruel? According to the Associated Press, carried to Sweden by her son and grandson through mountains, deserts and forests, 106 year-old Afghan woman, Bibihal Uzbeki, is facing deportation after her asylum application was denied. The family was part of a huge influx of those arriving in Europe in 2015 from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries. The severely disabled woman, who can barely speak, suffered a stroke after hearing the news. She has been living with 11 family members in the village of Hova in central Sweden. They had been living illegally in Iran for eight years, fleeing Afghanistan due to war and insecurity before taking the arduous journey. According to the Swedish Migration Agency, “Generally speaking, high age does not in itself provide grounds for asylum.”

Those whose applications are rejected are permitted up to three appeals which can take a long time. Other family members are at various stages of appeals.  They claim the plight of Afghans is being ignored by Swedish officials. Many European countries deny asylum to Afghans from parts of that country they consider “safe.”

According to Sanna Vestin the head of the Swedish Network of Refugee Support Groups, “The reasoning of the migration agency is that it is not unsafe enough in Afghanistan, though many of the big cities there cited as “safe” are not at the moment.”

I wonder how many members of the Swedish Migration Agency would agree to live in any part of Afghanistan? According to Biblihal’s son, Mohammed Uzbeki, it’s difficult to prove that the family faces a specific enemy upon return. “If I knew who was the enemy, I would have just avoided them,” he said, citing the Islamic State group, the Taliban, and suicide bombings as possible dangers.

Like so many of my fellow Americans, I am the granddaughter of immigrants from Ireland, Italy and Russia.  My Russian grandparents and their children, my father and his sister, once endured having a cross burned on their lawn when they lived in the South, which caused deep trauma.  I  am deeply ashamed and embarrassed at the demonization and cruel treatment of immigrants in this country by the current administration, who, like Sweden, seem to have stones where their hearts should be.

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