An asylum-seeker stuck in legal limbo in Sweden has said she has “nightmares every night” that police are following her in order to arrest her and deport her to Iran, where her conversion to Christianity could land her in prison.
Aideen Strandsson, 37, who took a Swedish surname when she arrived in Sweden from Iran on a work visa in 2014, was refused asylum almost a year ago and she does not yet have a date for an appeal hearing. She is not permitted to work, has no passport, and does not receive any welfare payments.
She said her close family, who now live in Sweden, believe her case is being deliberately delayed. “I know some people who sent their requests for appeal at the same time as I did, about one year ago. They’ve received an answer to their appeal, but there is no answer for me yet.” She added: “I don’t think they even care if I’m alive or not.”
Strandsson said the delay is taking its toll on her. “I pretend it’s OK, because I don’t want to make my mum, or other people who love me, sad. I show that I’m a strong woman. But I cry when I’m alone with Jesus in church. I ask Jesus, why am I here?” she told World Watch Monitor.
‘A dream about Jesus’
Last summer World Watch Monitor reported on the rejection of her claim for asylum. She said at the time that officials at the country’s Migration Board did not believe her life would be in danger if she were sent back to Iran, where converts can face jail. “They said to me it’s your personal life and it’s not our problem if you decided to become a Christian, and it’s your problem.”
According to the Christian Broadcasting Network, Strandsson became a Christian after having a dream about Jesus.
Her lawyer, Gabriel Donner, who has worked on around 1,000 asylum cases involving Iranian and Afghan converts, said: “Torture and rape is common in Iranian prisons.”
The migration board website states that in line with UN, EU and Swedish regulations, a person is considered a refugee when they have well-founded reasons to fear persecution due to religious or political beliefs, and that anyone at risk of corporal punishment, torture or death is deemed in need of extra protection.
However, Ulrika Langels, an official at the migration board, said last summer: “[Strandsson’s] case has been appealed and processed by the Migration Agency and thereafter by the Swedish courts, which have also decided that she cannot be granted asylum.”
Her lawyer told World Watch Monitor at the time: “The Migration Board did not believe that Aideen is truly a Christian and believed her knowledge of Christian faith was inadequate.” But he added: “There are no reliable criteria for judging what a Christian should know in order to believe.”
Churches in Sweden have criticised the migration board for assessing conversions with questions based on doctrine such as “Can you explain the Trinity?” rather than on personal experience.