The Talk About Asylum Seekers in the Swedish Parliament

A Critical Discourse Analysis of the Political Discourse Surrounding the 2016 Swedish Temporary Immigration Policy

Bachelor Thesis 2017 54 Pages

Politics - International Politics - Topic: Miscellaneous


Table of contents

1. Introduction
1.1 Rationale for the study
1.2 Relevance to IMER-Intemational Migration and Ethnic Relations
1.3 Research problem
1.4 Aim and Research Question
1.5 Materials and data collection:
1.6 Definitions
1.7 Previous Research
1.7.1 Immigration policy history in Sweden
1.7.2 Political discourse and construction of asylum seekers
1.8 Delimitation
1.9 Disposition

2. Conceptual and theoretical framework
2.1 The “Othering”
2.2 The “Stranger” and moral panic
2.3 Elements of‘othering’

3. Methodology
3.1 Critical Discourse Analysis method
3.2 Ethics, Validity, and Reliability

4. Findings and Analysis

4.1 Construction of asylum seekers in the temporary policy propositional paper and parliamentary debate
4.1.1 An Overload and Strain on the asylum and social system
4.1.2 Threat to Integration system
4.1.3 Threat to National Security
4.1.4 Economic burden
4.1.5 Queue-jumpers
4.1.6 Liars
4.1.7 Criminals
4.1.8 Morally deviant
4.1.9 Humans in need of humanitarian aid
4.1.10 Tool for integration
4.2 Contribution of the construction of asylum seekers in the 2016 Swedish temporary immigration propositional paper and parliamentary debate on the theory and concept of ‘othering'

5. Discussions and Conclusion
5.1 Further Research




This study examines the political-parliamentary discourse surrounding the 2016 Swedish temporary immigration policy with a focus on political construction of asylum seekers. Both the propositional parliamentary paper and debate were put to analysis using Critical Dis­course Analysis in order to find out themes ad constructions that manifests political discourse of asylum seekers. It is argued the political-parliamentary discourse surrounding the 2016 temporary immigration policy within the propositional parliamentary paper and debate served to negatively affect the image of asylum seekers via their construction as something negative through the use of words associated with ‘them’: overload and strain on the asylum and social system, threat to integration system, threat to national security, economic burden, queue jumpers, liars, criminals, and morally deviant. This is deemed to contribute to the Othering’ as projection of characteristics is created through marking asylum seekers in a different lan­guage of the deviance negative other. This can result to stereotypes, exclusion and marginali­sation of asylum seekers, thus diminishing their right to protection.

Keywords: Swedish 2016 Temporary Immigration Policy, political discourse, parliamentary discourse, othering, stranger, asylum seekers


Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

“Expressions of prejudicial political discourse only ever seem to create a dangerously erro­neous and inequitable barrier between “us ” and “them ” (Every and Augoustinos, 2007, cited in Fitzgerald, 2012)

1. Introduction

The year 2015 was an exceptional year in Sweden. It received an especially high number of refugees and asylum seekers (162,877 specifically), largely due to the “open border policy” that it employed which had proved beyond manageable (Migrationsverket, 2016)1. Changes of political discourse were witnessed during that specific year. For example, the prime minis­ter, Stefan Löfvens, discourse shifted from “my Europe does not build walls ” (Svensson et al, 2015) to “Sweden cannot manage to take in more asylum seekers, the situation is unman­ageable. Sweden cannot manage to take in asylum seekers as we want and how we are used of. The authority is stressed” (Kämnman, 2015). The Swedish Democrat Leader Jimmy Åkensson stated that “We are held in a situation that is fully unmanageable. We are standing towards welfare collapse, system collapse. It is required that the government react” (Wagen­berg, 2015).

As a result of the higher number of asylum seekers and the controversial political dis­course, the following year, the Swedish government adopted new and more restrictive legisla­tion that significantly reduced the number of asylum seekers and immigrants applying for a residence pemiit and relocation of family members to Sweden (Migrationsverket, 2016).Un- der the new laws, in exclusion of resettled refugees, a refugee can only be granted residence permit for three years, subsidiary protection persons for 13 months and persons otherwise will not be granted any. A permanent residence permit is promised only if a person is able to find a job (Ibid). These new policies apply to unaccompanied minors as well but it is depend­able on certain situations (Ibid). Moreover, family reunification is restricted to only those who are granted three years residence pemiit and are refugees, and if they manage to finan­cially support their families while in Sweden, and not to those with subsidiary protection (Ibid). Any immigrant who does not apply for family reunification within three months of ar­rival will have to prove they are able to financially support them (Bilefskey, 2016).Hence the new legislation will place limits on the number of family members eligible to come over to Sweden. The 2016 temporary immigration policy represented a significant shift of the Swe­dish immigration policy from liberal to less liberal since the 18th century. The political dis­course- parliamentary debate and propositional paper- surrounding the 2016 temporary immi­gration policy, will therefore, offer a substantial insight into the social construction of asylum seekers in the realm of Swedish politics surrounding the 2016 temporary immigration policy which additionally, as though not the focus of this essay, also offers discourses that legiti­mised the 2016 Swedish temporary inmiigration policy.

1.1 Rationale for the study

The rationale for examining the political discourse surrounding the 2016 temporary immigra­tion policy centres upon my own personal curiosity due to the level of controversy surrounding the realm of political discourse and construction of asylum seekers in the contemporary era of migration challenges. Moreover, reading on Sweden’s 2016 temporary immigration policies from a more political angle increased my desire to improve my knowledge through further research on how asylum seekers were actually discussed within the framework of Swedish politics that surrounded the adoption of the 2016 temporary immigration policy. Academically, there is a lack of studies carried out on this particular topic within the Swedish framework; although, since this is really a contemporary phenomenon, this is understandable. Nevertheless, it is still considered important for this essay to look to help to address an important research gap by exploring and examining the political discourses that centre asylum seekers from the perspective of Swedish politics. The intention is to give insight and rethinking in the field of immigration and political discourses surrounding asylum seekers as there has been more re­search on media discourse and representation of asylum seekers than political discourse and construction of asylum seekers yet politicians play a salient role in the first determination and conceptualization of who asylum seekers are, and what defines borders. Also the fact that the debate surrounding the 2016 temporary immigration policy cultivated a serious dialogue re­garding the humanitarian concern of asylum seekers.

1.2 Relevance to IMER-Intemational Migration and Ethnic Relations

Within the IMER field of study, discourses in fomis of stereotypes, othering, prejudices, and categorising of minority groups in an inclusion of asylum seekers and refugees are factors that are believed to instigate marginalization, discrimination, and exclusion. Moreover, such dis­courses are also believed to hinder minorities integration process in the host state, undermine minorities right to protection, and also breach different international and humanitarian laws signed by the state. Thus, it becomes relevant to carry out a study analysing political discourse surrounding the 2016 temporary immigration policy, which is usually the forgotten domain, in relation to construction of asylum seekers in order to foresee how asylum seekers are actually politically discussed, its effects, and on how it can be rethought. This is to add a new realm in the IMER field of research, and, also, help to contribute a creation of a successful multicultural, open, safe and humanitarian atmosphere for future to be residents and citizens of Sweden- asylum seekers. This is through rethinking the discourses surfacing different immigration pol­icies.

1.3 Research problem

This research is focused with how asylum seekers were discussed in the parliamentary debate and propositional paper surrounding the Swedish 2016 temporary immigration policy. While the Immigration Agency considers Sweden’S 2016 temporary immigration policy to be a suc­cess in reducing the number of asylum seekers ,since only 28,929 people sought asylum in 2016 compared to 162,877 in 2015 (Migrationsverket, 2016). There is still scope for analysis of related issues. This is because Sweden has always been highly ranked within the sphere of democracy, and with regard to tolerance of immigration of family refugees, independent refu­gees and asylum seekers (Swedish Refugee Advice Centre, 2015). The last two decades has been characterized by negative attitudes towards asylum seeking in Sweden thus crystallizing an exclusionary temporary less liberal immigration policy. 2015-2016 saw a rise in the contro­versial rhetoric surrounding the discussion of asylum seekers as Sweden witnessed a high in­crement in the number of asylum seekers. As a result, discourses, such as national identity, Swedish culture, national security, migrant as a threat to Sweden, ‘us’ vs ‘them’, and Swedish values became much more prominent in relation to the refugee crisis (Culberston, 2017). For example, the Christian Democrats leader commented that the increased number of asylum seek­ers would instigate exclusion in Sweden if migrants could not speak the Swedish language and embrace Swedish culture (Ibid).If only from the external perspective asylum seekers were dis­cussed in the forni of questioning Swedish identity, security and culture within the year 2015­2016, one is left to wonder about how they were politically discussed and constructed in the parliamentary discourse surrounding the adoption of the 2016 temporary immigration policy that legitimised the 2016 temporary immigration policy.

Moreover, Grove et al (2006) state that political discourse in the forni of parliamentary discourse shapes and forms our understanding of policies and seeks to legitimise our re­sponses. Furthermore, Van Dijk (1997) provides that this kind of discourse plays a salient role in the production and reproduction of prejudices and racism in all public discourse spheres. He argues the beliefs, prejudiced attitudes and ideologies of popular racism are de­rived from interpretations of elite discourse, such as media, messages, textbooks, corporate discourse, and more specifically for this essay political-parliamentary discourse (Ibid). There­fore, Van Dijk (1997) recognises the need to analyse political discourse since politicians are central to making immigration decisions and also serving to provide the first situation when new inmiigrants appear at the borders. It is also believed that examining political discourses surrounding asylum seekers identify systems of domination and deconstruct images portrayed in political discourses. This further strengthens the rationale to examine the political dis­course surrounding the 2016 Swedish temporary immigration policy on the construction of asylum seekers.

1.4 Aim and Research Question

The aim of this research is to examine the political discourse in the form of parliamentary de­bate and propositional paper surrounding Sweden’S 2016 temporary immigration policy and explore how asylum seekers were constructed. Further, to provide a discussion about how this contributes to the “othering”, and how this objectively and subjectively can affect asylum seekers. Therefore, the research questions are:

1) How were asylum seekers constructed in the propositional paper and parlia­mentary debate surrounding the 2016 Swedish temporary immigration policy?
2) How does the construction of asylum seekers in the propositional paper and parliamentary debate contribute to the theory and the concept of Othering ’? a) How does this subjectively and objectively affect asylum seekers?

1.5 Materials and data collection

The data analysed in this particular research is from the Swedish parliamentary website (riks­dag.sej.It consists of a written transcribed piece of debate speech and propositional paper sur­rounding the 2016 temporary immigration policy. I printed both of them in which I further analysed and explored the construction of asylum seekers. It is noted by Potter and Weth- erell, 1987, cited in Every,2006, pp46-49 that the carrying of an analysis on a parliamentary debate is of a strong advantage as it keeps the researcher far from influencing the data since it is a naturalistic data that would have occurred even if it had not been recorded. Moreover, I used secondary materials, such as previous research papers, journals, and articles and subject specific books, for the purpose of strengthening the analysis and discussion of the findings on the construction of asylum seekers in the political-parliamentary discourse surrounding the 2016 temporary immigration policy.

1.6 Definitions

Immigration policy- Immigration policy is a set of rules and regulations within the realm of foreign policy that focuses on the terms of who is able to enter the national territory, the rights of non-citizens, and the conditions by which citizenship is acquired (See, Sales, 2007, p.98). The policy process and restructuring of immigration policy is usually shaped by the political, economic, social history of a state, and by the development of their political, legal and administrative structures (Sales, 2007, p.98)

Political discourse: A collection of a genre to which laws, political speeches, cabinet meet­ings, slogans, or political propaganda belong (Wodak et al, 2000).

Asylum seeker- Whittaker (2006) defines an asylum seeker as an individual in transit who has moved across frontiers and applies for a sanctuary in some other place other than his na­tive country and does not meet the criteria of a refugee as stated in the 1951 and the protocol convention of the Refugee status.

Refugee - On the other hand a refugee according to the treaty of the 1951 convention on the status of refugees is a person who flees his/her native state owing to a well-foundedfear of being persecutedfor reasons of race, religion, nationality and is unable or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection. However, an asylum seeker can also tran­sition to becoming a refugee that is if he or she passes the criteria’s of refugee status determi­nation- a legal and administrative process by which a receiving end governments and UN­HCR determine on whether a person seeking international protection is considered a refugee under international, regional or national law (UNHCR, 2001-2017). A person who qualifies as a refugee in accordance with 1951 refugee convention is usually granted residence pemiit in the hosting state, however the EU and Sweden work on a different frame when it comes to refugee determination. The EU recognizes a refugee according to the 1951, and also employ its own framework known as “subsidiary protection” set out in the Common European Asy­lum

1.7 Previous Research

The idea of using previous research in this instance is somewhat problematic because the topic to be researched, in this forni of the Political discourse surrounding the 2016 temporary immigration policies is a contemporary phenomenon. Therefore, as has already been stated, there is a lack of previous research in this area. As a result, this essay will look to mostly fo­cus on previous international research to have been completed regarding the related topic of political discourse and construction of asylum seekers to gain more insight of this area. It will then integrate what international researchers have done in order to build bridges between their studies and that of Sweden to be researched (Creswell, 2014).

1.7.1 Immigration policy history in Sweden

Gerdes and Wadensjo (2016) recognise that, historically, Swedish immigration policy has been the subject of some significant change. This is because, whilst Sweden’s approach to immigra­tion was very liberal between the 1860s and World War I, the start of the war made it necessary to control migration (Ibid). However, Swedish immigration policy became less restrictive again after world war II Second when the nation became more welcoming to its Scandinavian neigh­bours seeking work (Ibid). Nelson (2015) also consider Sweden’S ‘openness’ and its failure. In doing so, he postulates that, despite Sweden’s relatively small size, in 2014 the country was recognised as having the highest number of asylum seekers per million of its population in the world (Nelson, 2015). Additionally, Nelson (2015) argues that the Refugee Crisis has served to overwhelm Sweden’S resources. As a result, Bilefsky (2016) believes Sweden has been un­able to cope with the high level of immigration, leading to right-wing politicians looking to achieve limits, culminating in the policies adopted in June 2016.

1.7.2 Political discourse and construction of asylum seekers

Rowe et al (2014) using CDA examine the political construction of asylum seekers and refu­gees in Australia during the debates surrounding the Malaysian deal. In so doing, they con­textualized the political construction of asylum seekers and refugees as a “threat to Australian identity” and threat to “border security” as “illegitimate” perceived to jump the queues.

Rowe et al (2014) continue and argue that the political construction of asylum seekers and refugees as illegitimate is deemed to result to the misrepresentation of asylum seekers which hitherto can undemiine their right to protection under Australian law and international obliga­tions.

Huot et al. (2015), analyses the construction of asylum seekers within the propositional policy document through collecting biometric data from temporary residents to see how asy­lum were constructed. He argues that asylum seekers are constructed as the Other’ who threatens the economy, national security and integrity of the refugee system in Canada. Even though their research specifically focuses on Canada, Huot et al (2015) work have served to inspire this essay’s research from Sweden’S perspective in the contextualization of how asy­lum seekers were in the political discourse surrounding the Swedish 2016 temporary immi­gration policy. Moreover, regarding asylum seekers construction by parliamentarians, Good­man et al. (2007) examine the effects of Othering’ to forced migrants within the sphere of public health. In so doing, they propose the engagement of public health in challenging the discourse of the Othering’ by promoting inclusion and helping shape a narrative which valu­ing forced migrants experience (Ibid).

Banks (2008) having researched the dynamics between asylum seekers construction and criminalization, such as with the regard to discursive responses to asylum seekers and refu­gees, finds out that asylum seekers are constructed as criminals, dangerous, and deviant. In so doing, he argues this has allowed for the legitimization of restrictive asylum and immigration policies (Ibid). Moreover, it is Banks’ (2008) belief that the current policies only make sense if asylum seekers are characterised as deviant. For greater depth regarding the issue of parlia­mentary discourse and the construction of asylum seekers, Baker (2015) explores the lan­guage use among Canadian parliamentarians regarding the protection of Canadian immigra­tion act. Specifically, Baker (2015) found the language used within Canadian parliamentary debates in this regard centred upon references to the Other’ as criminals, fraudsters, and se­curity threats.

One weakness of the previous research on discourse analysis regarding immigration and construction of asylum seekers is its focus on asylum seekers as victims and political states as the victim influencer, meaning that their point of departure from the state’s perspective has not been accounted for. Therefore, it would be true to say that all the previous research set above has inspired this study by offering insights in the realm of parliamentary discourse and construction of asylum seekers, something that this study needs for achieving its aim.

1.8 Delimitation

Since this essay’s focus centers upon the 2016 Swedish temporary inmiigration policy only the 2016 propositional paper and parliamentary debate shall be analysed. Moreover, this study is not comparing Sweden’S temporary immigration policy to other states but rather uses the consequential conclusions drawn from the case of other western European states for inter­pretations and relations in order to come to a fair conclusion. It is considered salient to recog­nize this essay’s scope limitation to only political-parliamentary discourse rather than media discourse. Also, I do not study the reasons as to why the Swedish immigration policy shifted from liberal to restrictive but rather study the policies political discursive aspect in the form of construction of asylum seekers.

1.9 Disposition

Chapter two will shade light on the conceptual and theoretical framework that is used to un­derstand and interpret the phenomenon under consideration here. The third chapter will pre­sent the methodology of this essay to extract results for further analysis, along with statement on ethics, validity and reliability of this work. The fourth chapter will consist of the findings and analysis, and the fifth chapter will present the discussion and conclusion.

2. Conceptual and theoretical framework

The following section manifests the theoretical backgroundfor the analysis. It explains the theory and concept of Othering Further, the theories used to understand the occurrence of political ‘Othering ’ -the ‘Stranger ’ -is noted and explained. Through conjoining the Other­ing ’ ‘Stranger ’ and ‘Political Discourse ’ the construction of asylum seekers are extracted from the propositional paper and parliamentary debate of the 2016 temporary immigration policy, and understood. These constructions will then be a substance of analysis.

2.1 The “Othering”

Othering was first coined within the post-colonial theory phase by Spivak in 1985 (Jensen, 2011). The concept of Othering’ draws on diverse philosophical and theoretical tradition (Ibid). It is important to note that, as though not the purpose of this essay, Spivak concept of Othering’ was inspired by Edwards Said’s thought on Orientalism’ (Ibid). On Orientalism’ Said Illustrates how the West constructed the identities of the Orient which was totally to the opposite of the West (Said, 2003). The first contemporary phase of Othering’ within the sphere of media and political discourse in Europe was in the incident of ‘Multiculturalism is dead’ a phase in which political spokespersons in France and Germany categorized Muslims as the culturally inferior Other’ who were backward in comparison with the nation, intoler­ant, violent and integration unwilling Other’ (Modood, 2008; Osseswaande cited in Mensing 2016). As though not the aim of this essay, it will be interesting to see whether related dis­courses exist on the political construction of asylum seekers in Sweden.

Due to the multifaceted philosophical nature of the Othering’ this essay will utilize the concept and theoretical background of Othering’, proposed by Grove and Zwi (2006). Weis 1995 cited in Grove and Zwi (2006) conceptualise the ‘othering’ as a concept that describes the process of differentiation or characterisation between one group from the other through the process of naming to secure and distance one’s identity by stigmatising the other. The function of the Othering’ is to fortify notions of our own ‘normality’ and set up the differ­ence of Others’ as a point of deviance (Grove et al, 2006, p. 1933). The group of persons that are ‘Othered’, in these case, asylum seekers experience this Othering’ as a progression of disempowerment, marginalisation and social exclusion that in the future leads to distinction between “us” and “them” (Ibid). Grove and Zwi (2006), citing Hardy and Phillips (1999), continue that the nature of dominant Othering’ discourse yields salient implications for refu­gee identity: as genuine and deserving; as fraudulent and abusive; as needy and helpless, and as autonomous and independent.

Moreover, (Goodman et al 2007, p. 180) argue the Othering’ of asylum seekers to cate­gories act as instruments of discrimination and through political discourse could result in prejudicial ideas and stereotypes about asylum seekers. However, the Othering’ is not only about the ‘negative-othering’ but also the ‘positive othering’- the fascination of the other (Jensen, 2011, p.65). Moreover, ( Hall, 1997) and (Bauman cited in Pietsch, 2009) appreciate the ‘other’s’ significance since it provides for identity formation through categorizing, creat­ing binaries which facilitate recognition, and reduce people to a few key characteristics which are represented as fixed in nature and essential for knowing the “self’.

2.2 The “Stranger” and moral panic

Bauman’s theory of the ‘Stranger’ (to have been put forward in Pietsch, 2009) will be used to interpret and comprehend the occurrence of ‘othering’ by politicians since it recognizes how the stranger symbolizes “order and uncertainty” within the social, cultural and political sphere (Pietsch,2009). Bauman’s understanding of the ‘stranger’ provides a particularly in­teresting synonym for the social ‘other’ in the form of asylum seekers and refugees (Ibid). He assumes that strangers, in this case, asylum seekers, threaten the boundaries that the ordering process requires in order for imposing stability and liability on a fluid social world (Bauman, 1997, p.17 cited in Pietsch, 2009, p.188). Bauman continues that the ‘we-ness’ of friends owes its materiality in the they-ness of the enemy and so, for the ‘we-ness’ to get its value,


1 Migrationsverket is a Swedish Migration Agency


ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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Malmö University
Migration Sweden Political discourse Asylum seekers refugees Temporary residence permit




Title: The Talk About Asylum Seekers in the Swedish Parliament