Migrant Smuggling, Reasons for Fleeing, and Uses of Asylum Capital among Afghan Asylum Seekers in Sweden

Abstract

In 2015 Afghans were the second largest group of asylum seekers in Sweden (and Europe). In this article, I analyze interviews conducted in early 2017 in Scania County with six adult male Afghan asylum seekers, an executive officer at the Swedish Migration Agency, the head of a private asylum seeker camp, and a voluntary worker. I show how the asylum seekers made their way to Sweden not so much through a pre-meditated choice, but by the combined effect of a worsened security situation in Afghanistan since the 2014 withdrawal of foreign troops, increasingly harsh measures against Afghans in Iran and Pakistan, and the migrant smuggling industry. Drawing on Pierre Bourdieu’s social theory, I then focus on practices surrounding the interviewed Afghans in the time encompassing their arrival, asylum application, and waiting for a decision in a privately run asylum seeker camp. I introduce the concept of asylum capital as a means to spell out the opportunities and constraints for being granted asylum in Sweden as an Afghan.

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