'Terrorist gateway': Suspected jihadist seeks asylum in Sweden

© Bjorn Lindgren
A suspected jihadist from Bosnia has failed in an attempt to seek asylum in Sweden. The man, who was seized upon arrival, sought refuge despite being on a ban list for Europe's Schengen travel area. He is now in police custody awaiting deportation.

The 46-year-old arrived at Malmö Airport on Monday with his four children, on a recently issued passport in his own name.

"He seemed nervous as he stood in the queue at the border control so we took him out and checked his documents," border police spokesman Leif Fransson told AP.

The man's arrival came despite being previously flagged by France in the Schengen Information System (SIS), which blocked him from entering countries in the European free travel zone.

"France has put a ban on him. I cannot say why because it is shrouded in secrecy," Fransson said.

The man told border police that he came to Sweden as a tourist. After authorities informed him there was a hit in the SIS, he said he wanted to seek asylum, Fransson explained.

“It was clear he had no grounds for asylum,” migration agency press spokesman Fredrik Bengtsson told Sydsvenskan newspaper.

“The right to apply for asylum is unconditional, but if it’s clear in the investigation that there are no grounds for asylum then the case is handled in a particular order and a decision can be made very quickly,” Bengtsson continued.

Sydsvenskan newspaper claimed that the man is an Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) militant, though AP said authorities have yet to confirm that he is a Muslim radical, or that he has ties to the Islamist group.

And although Fransson said the reason for the Schengen ban was “shrouded in secrecy,” Sydsvenskan reported that it was issued after he was arrested in Turkey in February, after authorities suspected him of having gone to Syria to fight alongside IS militants. He was reportedly sent back to Sarajevo, where police met him at the airport. His passport was apparently confiscated at that time, and the travel ban was issued.

The newspaper also reported that the man had been arrested by police in the Bosnian town of Kozarska Dubica in 2010 for possessing illegal weapons. In addition to automatic weapons and pistols, jihadist propaganda material was also reportedly confiscated.

Sydsvenskan also wrote that the man was behind an IS training camp in the mountain village of Osve, Bosnia, where jihadists were trained to fight in Syria.

As the man awaits deportation in police custody, superintendent Leif Fransson said he is furious at having to keep the man in the country after his case was handed to the Migration Agency.

“Sweden has got a reputation as a safe gateway for terrorists. As soon as these people play their trump card and shout ‘asylum’ the pearly gates are opened,” he told Sydsvenskan.

Sweden has been a popular destination for asylum seekers due to its strong economy and social services system. It accepted over 160,000 refugees and migrants in 2015, as part of the wider EU refugee crisis. That figure represents the highest per capita number of refugees of all EU countries.