Asylum Rights Work

Asylum Rights and Human Rights
Since the 1970’s, Anita D’Orazio has defended human rights for asylum seekers, rejected asylum seekers, undocumented migrants, and persons who are living in hiding in Sweden. Her committed involvement in this work began in the early 1970’s, when she took part in hiding American deserters during the Vietnam war to prevent them being deported to the United States. From the mid-70’s onward, Anita worked as a teacher of Swedish for Immigrants (SFI) and was active in the solidarity movement in support of refugees from South America—including those from Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, and Peru.

Early in the 1980’s, there was a notable change in the Swedish reception of refugees. Anita and others involved in defending the human rights of refugees witnessed how the Swedish Parliament and immigration authorities in practice began applying asylum politics, as opposed to and as was intended, the asylum laws that Sweden had pledged to pass in accordance with the international human rights conventions.

This led to the creation of several long-lived asylum rights organisations such as FARR (the Swedish Network of Refugee Support Groups), Fristadsrörelsen (the Sanctuary Movement) and Stoppa Rasismen Lidingö (End Racism Lidingö)—organisations that Anita was involved in starting, and in which she has actively  participated.

Anita’s advocacy for people who have been forced to flee their homelands has in many cases lead to these persons, in their vulnerable life situations–including children and families—being granted permission to stay in Sweden. This work has always been carried out on an unpaid basis that has been made possible thanks to voluntary contributions and involvement of other persons and organizations.

In September 2016 a new scholarship was installed; the Anita D’Orazio scholarship, to acknowledge people who, like Anita, are working for refugees and asylum seekers. Read more under Prizes & Awards.

 In December 2016, Anita D’Orazio received the ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ (‘Årets livsgärning’) at the Svenska Hjältar Galan at Cirkus in Stockholm. The Svenska Hjältar Galan has been celebrating ‘Swedish heroes’ for 10 years (for more information in Swedish see: Svenska Hjältar TV4 and The prize was awarded to her by the Svenska Hjältar’s Chair of the Jury, TV-personality and author Mark Levengood, actor Björn Granath, singer/musician and composer Mikael Wiehe, and actor Sven Wollter. 

To listen to the song that Mikael Wiehe dedicated to Anita: ‘A Song to Courage’ press here. As part of this Award, a portrait of Anita is now hanging on Arlanda Airport’s ”Wall of Fame” at Terminal 5. For more information see Prizes & Awards and Articles & Media.

In order to finance the asylum rights work, such as paying for medical care fees, medicines and public transit costs for persons who are living in hiding in Sweden, Anita’s worked a great deal with fundraising. By arranging music festivals such as the Ubuntu festival in 2014 and other cultural activities, money has been collected while also raising the awareness of asylum rights in a broader public.

Research and education
Together with researchers and clinicians, such as, specialists within medicine, psychotraumatology, psychiatry, and child psychiatry, Ear, Nose and Throat and pediatricians- as well as lawyers and other experts, Anita D’Orazio has published a number of reports to raise awareness about asylum rights matters. She has also provided expert advice to students and given lectures.

Examples of reports:

Examples of publications and documents, which concerns research and education where Anita has provided expert advice:

Children and Families
Work for children and families has been at the forefront in Anita’s advocacy work for the Right to Asylum. This is especially notable in her commitment to understand, getting help for, and supporting ‘apathetic’ refugee children, since the beginning of the 2000’s.

In 2004, the Government appointed the Foreign Ministry (the Migration Minister) to investigate the reason behind the illness leading to loss of bodily function, amongst some asylum seeking children. These children’s condition was regarded as a previously unknown phenomenon, which was not the consequence of psychological trauma, but rather seen as ‘a group reaction amongst families who were living under threat and where there may have been a possibility of a secondary gain (i.e., a residence permit)’ (from Göran Bodegård’s preface to ”Children without a voice”).

Anita is one of many people who are involved in working for the rights of ‘apathetic’ refugee children—for example, by acting as personal representative (‘ombud’) for families under threat of deportation, and by campaigning and raising awareness about the situation in the media. She works in close collaboration with health care professionals, for example through Läkare i Världen’s (Médecins du Monde Suède/Doctors of the World Sweden) legal advice and psychosocial support service (page in swedish). She was also actively involved in the compilation of the report ‘Children without a voice’, which investigates how children with severe symptoms of Pervasive Arousal Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS) and their families are treated during the asylum process.

The Migration Board policy for ‘apathetic’ refugee children who are fed via nasogastric tube, has changed somewhat since autumn 2012. In 2013, the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare ( published a groundbreaking policy document, ”Barn med uppgivenhetssymtom” (pdf) (‘Children with Pervasive Arousal Withdrawal Syndrome’ – currently only available in Swedish), which established that apathy is a life threatening condition. This is in line with the human rights conventions that Sweden has signed.

The conventions that Sweden and other countries have signed to accept and support can be found on the United Nation’s website, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Rights for Persons with Disabilities from 2008. This is also in accordance with the Right to Health. Since the policy document was released, approximately a hundred families with children being fed through a nasogastric tube have been granted permission to stay, each year.