Hundreds of stolen Swedish visas invoke fears of human trafficking, terrorism

Hundreds of stolen Swedish visas invoke fears of human trafficking, terrorism

Two hundred visa stamps have disappeared, suspected stolen, from a Swedish embassy in Asia, which earlier was also probed over claims of having issued dozens of incorrect visas on false grounds. This revelation is all the more worrying in light of the raised terror threat across Europe.

According to Swedish national broadcaster SVT, which exposed this incident, the discovery was made after an individual carrying fake travel documents, including a visa stamp from a Swedish embassy, was stopped at the Turkish border in November 2016. Subsequently, the Swedish Migration Board found that 200 visa stamps had gone missing at the embassy.

“The serious thing is that it could be part of organized crime to use stolen visas,” Migration Board investigator Gunnar Fröberg told SVT, adding that each visa stamp could fetch around $20,000 on the black market.

So far, the investigation has not been able to link anyone to the suspected theft.

This is the second investigation in which the Embassy has been involved in such a short period of time. Earlier this year, a former staff member was investigated for accusations of having wrongfully issued around 70 visa documents to Afghan citizens during his time at the embassy, in 2015. The man, who was discharged from his position, denies the allegations.

“We don’t trust him any longer,” Migration Board regional director Magnus Rodin said then, admitting that the situation, where officials intentionally violate the rules and grant permits on false grounds was “extremely serious.”

According to Swedish Radio, the man’s actions included changing a colleague’s decisions to reject visa applications and approving obviously fake certificates that should have been immediately dismissed as such.

Later, people using the false documents reportedly sought asylum in Sweden, which invoked suspicions of professional human smuggling, a report by the Migration Board said.

A previous investigation by Swedish Radio revealed that the Foreign Ministry had information about problems with visa management at the embassy for a long time without taking any measures.

The embassy staff consists of personnel from the Foreign Ministry and the Migration Board, as well as local employees.

The news of stolen visas and application fraud kindled Swedes’ fears of terrorism amid a spate of terrorist attacks across Europe.

Earlier this week, a 34-year-old resident of the city of Örebro, previously suspected of terrorism, fraud and terrorist financing, testified about plans regarding attacks against Swedish cities, including Örebro and Stockholm. He also provided the authorities with information about Daesh (ISIS/ISIL) recruiters in Sweden, Swedish Radio reported.


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