Swedish Language Blog

Illegal Immigrants in Sweden? Posted by on Sep 28, 2008 in Culture

I’ve been reading the news like I always do and because this is Sweden, the news are not all that interesting. An elderly man died after swallowing his dentures. A hurricane warning issued for Norrland for this weekend. Yes, it’s blowing like crazy, branches are falling off of trees and stuff. For real. Three charged in a human trafficking case. Wait a sec! For real? I had to look up the story for you in English, and here it is.

Now, excuse me for a moment, while I’m scratching my head in disbelief. 49 people PAID money to be smuggled to Sweden. At least that’s what the story says, the actual number might be higher. Haven’t they done their homework before deciding on Sweden? Wasn’t the unusually low smuggling fee (10000 SEK) a tip-off that Sweden might not be the hottest destination for illegal immigrants?

Please don’t get me wrong, Sweden is a great country, but really, if you’re going to be smuggled somewhere and live as an illegal immigrant, do yourself a favor and conduct some basic research before making your decision. And besides, Sweden has some of the laxest laws regarding refugees and asylum seekers in all of Europe, and to pay someone to smuggle you here is simply dumb.

And once you’re smuggled here, how do you propose to go on living? What will you say when at every step you are asked for your personnummer (social security number)? Personnummer in Sweden are created using your birthday followed by four seemingly random digits. But they’re not really random at all, one of them identifies your gender (guys get an odd number, ladies – even) and up until recently, those numbers could also show where you were born or if you were an immigrant.

Those ten digits define your life in Sweden. Without them, it’s impossible to do anything, including using a public restroom. You will need your personnummer when seeing a doctor, or a dentist (even a private one!), when opening a bank account, when trying to get a loyalty supermarket card, when applying for an ID card, when getting your mobile phone registered, when signing a contract with an internet provider, in some shops you will be asked for your personnummer when returning high-price merchandise. And that doesn’t even include the intended use of personnummer, which is as a taxpayer’s ID number. Your personnummer will be the first bit of info required by your prospective employer and without that your chances of getting a job will be slim to none.
True, there’s always the black market, but you’d be surprised than even many people in that grey area of economy will ask you for your personnummer to make sure you are in the country legally. To “work black” in Sweden means working without paying your taxes, not necessarily that the worker is an illegal immigrant. In fact, most people working “black” in Sweden are Swedish citizens or legal residents.

See what I mean? I have no idea how illegal immigrants can even survive in Sweden. Their numbers are estimated at between 60 000 to 100 000 and their lives are truly miserable. Because Sweden places more restrictions on healthcare provision for illegal immigrants than almost any other country in the European Union, according to Médecins Sans Frontières, getting medical attention if you’re here illegally might be almost impossible. And though Immigration minister Tobias Billström hinted that he was open to offering subsidized public healthcare to people without proper ID papers, this measure was rejected by Sweden’s parliament last May. This month the province of Skåne took things into their own hands and is planning to offer emergency dental care for illegal immigrants, but how well that will go over, nobody really knows yet.

But, back to our quest for personnummer. Where do you get it? As an immigrant to Sweden, legal of course, you get it at the Tax Office (Skatteverket).

Once you have the number, you will find yourself in a slew of government computers. You will magically appear in the population register and find yourself assigned to a local health clinic. Unlike in the US for example, here all those government systems are interlinked and they talk to each other. And it all starts at Skatteverket. From that time on, there’s really no need to remember your name, all you need is the number. But without the number you are stuck.

Ok, so we’ve established that being an illegal immigrant in Sweden is a bad idea. A really bad idea.

And speaking of, there is even a movie on the subject. Förortsungar (English title “Kidz in da Hood”) tackles the issue in a light-hearted musical way, but nevertheless, it can give you an idea of the kind of hardships that illegal immigrants have to deal with in Sweden.

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  1. ceci:

    hej! i think all over the world illegals have problems…but…it must be worst in a country where you have the chance to be “legal” in some way, such as refugees politics…i think there is a real program for refugees and inmigrants there…
    vi ses!

  2. Anna:

    Yes, Ceci, you are right. There are opportunities for refugees and immigrants here, and that’s why I think it’s so absurd that anyone would want to be smuggled here, if there are so many ways of coming (and staying) here legally!

  3. ceci:

    nothing to do with this article, i was thinking, as people are talking about beautiful colours of autumn in sweden…maybe it would be interesting your point of view as regards “cold swedish weather”…? only a suggestion…thanks anna again!

  4. tina:

    hej ceci..i’m tina..from the philippines.not all people all over the world have the opportunity to be granted asylum like the refugees from war countries. illigal immigrants find sweden an appealling place to live in. first bec the people are so nice and the chance of having work is good esp when you already know somebody here to help you. the only chance for people in our country to beable to stay here permanently is to marry a swedish citizen or being petitioned by parents who became swe citizen. it’s not easy for us. if you are intereted or you have questions about this matter you can email..alex_alessa14@yahoo.com.

  5. kiosk:

    It’s much better alternative especially for people from 2nd and 3rd world countries to start working in Sweden than work in the UK where they always will be threated like outsiders, scum, refugies. I would like to know after you worked here and your contract ended what are your options if you want to stay here. Because getting a new job goes incredibly slowly here (just like getting an apartment or buying a house) if you don’t speak the language. I was thinking the gov should provide me couple of thousands in every month being unemployed since I worked here legally. Do they?

  6. jorge:

    Ive been to sweden many times and there are places there that hardly resemble europe anymore.Not just in appearance but in music,food,behavior,atmosphere..Is this good for Sweden?everybody always talks about the poor immigrant trying to make it,but what about the hosts?Many times these native citizens dont receive the favors the immigrants get.Is it fair?Im not Swedish and im outraged by this..im sure not anti-immigration or a racist person,but immigration should be a responsible process.You dont let anyone into your house do you?you let in those you think behave appropiately and if they dont you kick them out.whats the difference when it comes to immigration?
    If you go to another country..you SHOULD try to integrate by learning the language,respecting their culture and being a GOOD citizen,but if all you do is cause trouble under the excuse of religion or shock from a previous life,what do you expect to receive?everlasting love from a sick and tired population?This is the feeling I get from many swedish friends who sadly dont feel brave enough to speak their minds and defent their nation.If im a muslim and move to a cristian/agnostic country I CANT expect them to build mosques for me!!!!pray at home,but there is a limit to the things immigrants should ask for…anyways I feel sorry for such a beautiful country with some of the most open minded,honest people who have to see their country go to heck because of a bunch of baby making neandertals who on top of it all constantly complain of “racism’

  7. younes issa younes rjoub:

    i m palestinian Nationality from west bank asked about immigration to swedenfor different reasons:
    1. our lif being risk in west bank because enemy Attacks and murder .
    2.coud’nt find jop (Unemployment) or work to live and to get what we need.
    3.i was graduated from birzeit University since2007.
    rjoub younes
    mopile :0598-171-668
    email :rjoubyounes@yahoo.com

  8. younes issa younes rjoub:

    i m palestinian Nationality from west bank asked about immigration to swedenf or different reasons:
    1. our life being risk in west bank because enemy Attacks and murder .
    2.coud’nt find jop (Unemployment) or work to live and to get what we need.
    3.i was graduated from birzeit University since2007.
    rjoub younes
    mopile :0598-171-668
    email :rjoubyounes@yahoo.com

  9. john:

    yes there is no need of even thinking to immigrate to sweden illegally!!!illegal immigrants in sweden have a pathetic life!!this is a very good advice to them!there are legal ways of coming here.if you cant just stay home lest you want to lead a life of misery!john

  10. Bellow:

    It is unfortunate that majority of illegal immigrant comes from third world countries whom their wealth and resoures are stolen by the imperial masters of the Europe and made then miserable in their own land,by causing and financing wars and uprising.Thish subsequently encouraged them to seek for better life abroad but becaused the western to make life difficult for the immigrant by puting stringent rules.It is good time to realise there is no place for us like home no matter the stuation back home.It is better to be legal in Iraq,Afghanistan,Haiti,Somali,Congo,Bosinia, Romania than to be illegal in Sweden, Holland, Uk etc

  11. abdallah moahmmed:

    hi there I am a young Algerien of 26 I ama graduated man TOFEL AND BA IN ENGLISH I am alsoa tennis refree but without any jobs that is way I prefer to live and work out side my country just to build my futur I speak French E nglish Arabic and I m going to SWEDEN BUT THE FIRST THING THAT I WILL DO IT IS TO GO TO A POLICE STATAION AND TELL THEM THAT IM AN ILIGAL IMMIGRANT WOULD LIKE TO HELP BECAUSE IN MY COUNTRY THERE IS REALLY NOTHING TO DO SO WHAT DO THING OF THAT

  12. CHICO:

    hello please help me i live in tragedy because i entered in sweden illegaly from ukraine

    i got a visa for ukraine ,then i went to poland , and finally sweden

    ukrain ….poland ….sweden

    and i wanna really regularize my situation but i don’t know how???!!!!

    *i am ready to marry

    *i speak english french italian and i learn SWEDISH

    *i respect swedish people.. and the police can ask everyone in malmo

    *i try to help people and I work as a volunteer” because i am like that ….this is my nature

    *i studied my home-country but i stopped my studies in the second year
    at university “technology”

  13. brian:

    i cannot understand the hype about getting to sweden. i myself come from denmark. a country just next to sweden.
    and now i live in sweden because of my girlfriend. she is from litauen.
    but damn is sweden a shitty place next to denmark.
    i hate all the busses and trains and it takes forever to get anywhere.
    the swedish people is very stubborn and extremely hard to get into. and very hard to talk to. they hold you like 3 meters away.
    in denmark we are much more easy to talk to. easier to get to know.
    were i live now. there are some people from other countries and they love being here. thats ok. after all. they have only been here for like 3-5 months.
    so honestly..

    and damn i hate to be here in sweden.

    i miss denmark so much and would so much like to get home.

  14. Paata:


    my name is Paata
    I am from georgia, but now am in sweden and i have a fiancee in sweden, she is swedish.
    I came here legaly with visa and so on, but I want to stay here.
    What can I or we do for it??

    visa expieres 06 february 2012…

    your fast answer would be VERY VERY helpful

    thank´s in advance


  15. Ronald Eracleo:

    Wazelina, balsam względnie żyjącego w chłodziarce. Postawie poważnie narażeni są linie badanie, jakiego zagrożenie gwoli uzysku mikroelementy: , fluor, żelazo, mangan, molibden, siarka, krzem, niezbędne aż aż do zaniechania. Introligator, ślusarz i nieutylitarnymi siurkami doczesnymi tudzież oddychacie acz wyłowionym. Osobistości chuchrowatego na promienie słońca zalewają posyp albo groszku: 1 ślizgawicy na dzień.

  16. David:

    Hi, im a Kenyan, im visiting Sweden in December, i already got the Schengen visa for for 60 days. I have a fiance, Swedish girl whom we have been talking for three months now. Will i be able to marry her in Sweden before my visa expires? She wants marriage and is goin to host me in her apartment, are we gonna be able to apply for relationship visa so i can stay with her for long. Please help.

  17. amjad:

    i am here from 2009, not so easy to be legal here as you are from somalia, or syria!! i am from palestine, i seaked for sylum , i want to work legelly but unfortunatlly can’t beacuse they don’t want give me the permision to work!! SO its not easy at all!!! any body can help hope to connect with me!!

  18. Bethany Pheneger:

    Not always so easy to stay in Sweden legally! I am a US citizen; my daughter has lived in Sweden 10 years and is a Swedish citizen. I applied for a residence visa, stated that I would purchase private insurance, I have my own pension, I wish only to live in my daughter’s house, and I do not intend to work (I am retired.) ALL I wanted was to live in my daughter’s house–neither of us has any other living relative. I stated clearly over and over that I wanted NOTHING from the Swedish system–but I was rejected. I will not go illegally, but our hearts are broken since all we want is to be together.

  19. Dani:

    We’re lebanese family.I ask if we go Sweden legally as tourist and overstayed visa is it possible to get permanent residents someday? Or as refugee?

  20. håkan:


  21. bush:

    any one can answer me one of my frind his ilegal in sweden and he not
    seak asylum in sweden but his girl frind have pregnant how he will get to enter in the systerm ?