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The problems of asylum

Photo: Gullers, KW / Nordiska museet (CC BY-NC-ND)
Torgny Segerstedt,1940. Photo: Gullers, KW / Nordiska museet (CC BY-NC-ND)

"He who has tormented, persecuted, tortured, murdered others, has forfeited the right to complain, if he himself suffers similar treatment." - Torgny Segerstedt

The issue of the right to asylum has been on the agenda for as long as the war has been going on. It had already been raised before that. The flood of refugees over the borders of the Third Reich forced its neighbours to consider the obligations of international law on this point. It happened that German Gestapo men dragged refugees back across the border in order to be able to subject them to interrogations such as those carried out in the Third Reich. Conditions became more difficult after the outbreak of war. The authorities in our country also have a lot on their conscience in this matter. We recall the repeated cases in which persons who had taken refuge in Swedish territory were sent back across the border to meet a certain death.

However, the question of the right of asylum may be raised further and take on a scope that precludes any attempt at secrecy or deception. Otherwise, this is the atmosphere that the Swedish government, and in particular the Foreign Ministry, loves. The gentlemen there seem to believe that it is to diplomacy what greenhouse heat is to plants. And it is certain that the subtlety cultivated there cannot stand the harsh air of the outside world.

There is reason to consider how we should behave when the glass walls of the greenhouse are broken by the hailstones. The question of the right of asylum must sooner or later become a burning issue for those countries which have been kept out of the war, if they are still outside it after the approaching end of the war. It is foreseeable that many will, when the time comes, attempt to cross over to these still neutral countries by aeroplane or submarine or whatever means they can practise. Will they enjoy the right of asylum?

The question cannot be answered with an unconditional yes or no. It is as obvious that pure political refugees should enjoy the right of asylum as that no one can enjoy this protection merely and solely because he has been politically active. Anyone who has behaved like a violent man cannot escape punishment by declaring that this was an integral part of his political activity. There are acts which cannot be justified by the claim that they were part of a political activity. It is not that simple.

It is further evident that persons who have themselves trampled under foot all the precepts of international law and humanity cannot invoke the said precepts when they could serve to protect themselves. He who has himself transgressed the precepts of the law of asylum cannot then hide behind them. The old rule, when I super it is right, may apply what it can in the coffee-shop, when it is a question of reality, it is not good enough as a rule of law.

Ultimately, the right of asylum, as with all such things, goes back to the eternal golden rule, "whatever you wish men to do to you, you do to them."

The negative rule may be used, if it be found expedient, "whatsoever ye would not that men should do to you, do ye not to them." He who has tormented, persecuted, tormented, tortured, murdered others, has forfeited the right to complain, if he himself suffers similar treatment.

It is not a fate beyond and above human life that retaliates for wrongdoing. It is a force inherent in the acts which links them together, and it is this connection, behind which men glimpse an active power, that they make themselves into an image and name Nemesis.

It is the presumptuous concealed, that the evil deeds in the course of events introduce a factor, which must be healed out again. It is a poison introduced into the event, and from which it must be freed. It cannot amalgamate with the juice of life. It is separated, and seeks its way back to its source. It is what is called Nemesis. It can be observed in individual as well as in public life, in small events as well as in world events.

There may be a case for thinking through the problem of asylum law in advance, so that we are not helpless when it arises. It may happen sooner than most people think. The course of events seems to be drifting towards a major disaster.

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