The Swedish Immigration Service has amended information on its website regarding the timescale in which it ’must’ process applications for citizenship made by members of other EU states. Until recently it said that all applications would be dealt with within 24 months, now it stands at 23 – 26 months. It also interestingly explains they are not required to process applications for 1 – 6 months, and that the average waiting time for acquiring citizenship is 7 – 8 months.
I made my application in October 2016 (which was as soon as I had fulfilled the necessary five years permanent residency in Sweden). When I made my application the only time frame mentioned was an average of 3 – 5 months from submission of the application to receiving an answer. I am now in that 23 – 26 month period but am becoming increasingly nervous that the Immigration Service might well move the goalposts again and increase their working window as the result of a recent change in legislation requiring them to award residency to all asylum seeking teenagers turning eighteen who are registered as studying at high-school. It is common knowledge here that the Immigration Service is under-resourced, understaffed, and over stretched. The plight of asylum seekers is of course urgent, it is also a hotly debated subject in the Swedish media. The unprecedented rise of the right-wing Swedish Democrats in September’s local and national elections are interpreted by many an indication of anxieties concerning immigration.
Under other circumstances I could say that this worries and upsets me – as does the increased popularity of nationalist politics generally. However I now feel justified in claiming that this concerns me – literally. It would not do so if the UK had not voted to leave the EU, or if everything was in place for a smooth transition period that included clear rights for UK citizens living elsewhere in the EU. Hearing British and European politicians fears for ”no deal” and the UK simply crashing out of the EU in March next years worries me greatly. My right to live and work here is soley based on my coming from another EU country – if that changes overnight so does my right to work. As a part-time employed and freelance artist I would have a hard task to convince the authorities to grant me the work-visa required by non EU workers.
Last week, on Wednesday I think, it dawned on me just how much the uncertainty of the situation is affecting me. In the summer I had begun casually reading the Guardian online – limiting myself to articles about the UK leaving the EU. I had not properly looked at a paper in a long time. Several years ago, while John was alive but ill, I made the positive decision to avoid ’hard news’. I realised that waking up to Radio 4’s Today programme and listening to the headlines and interviews for a couple of hours made it virtually impossible for me to go to studio and make anything of any sensitivity, wonder, or dare I say it – beauty.
The enormity of the UK leaving the EU and particularly my own situation lured me back to ’hard news’, during the heady days of the hotest summer on record, I began with the headlines and opinion pieces of the Guardian. Online newspapers are not the same as the weighty paper tomes that I used to deliver early every morning on my teenage newspaper round. Digital papers can, and do, update their content and stories numerous time throughout the day.
Understanding this and my hunger for some crumb of certainty had me, by mid September, online reading lengthy articles and following links to related stories three, four, … even more times a day.
And of course I never got the fix that I needed -the clear and simple sentence that told me that everything would be alright. What I got was deeper and deeper into the complexities and intricacies of the differing fractions and the seeming impossibility of agreement.
Thankfully I woke up to myself and saw what was going on. I was going to the studio and there in the peace and quiet my mind was developing kaleidoscopes of worse case scenarios. The work that I should, and want to, be getting on with was not just simmering below the surface – it was becoming more and more submerged under a chaotic maelstrom of worries and frustrations.
Then it came to me – I could stop looking at the news -with immediate effect.
I was at the studio for just a few hours on Thursday. It has been odd not clicking the familiar web-browser tab to refresh the Guardian’s front page over breakfast that morning but it paid off. I started sketching and thinking about next year’s project in Uppsala. It was great to be there with charcoal in my hand trying to capture something of the feeling I want to evoke. It has been a long time since I sketched like that.
And all of a sudden something completely new began to form itself. Quite unbidden I found myself sketching something that needed to come out, and that needs to be realised. I felt excited – a feeling that has been absent in recent months. Excited about this new thing, but the excitement was infectious and soon I felt a renewed excited about the piece for Uppsala’s Art Cube.
It is several days later now and the temptation to look at the news is quickly lessening. In its place I have energy and enthusiasm for what I am doing in the studio. On Friday I placed an order for a couple of hundred of pounds worth of materials for M (the working title of my Uppsala piece) – something that I had pushed to the back of my mind. And yesterday evening at home I was compelled to get my sketchbook – an idea that demands exploration came to me while watching a wonderfully distracting You Tube video by a passionate cupcake decorator!
I am so pleased to have rediscovered my own passion for my own practice – something that was being quashed by distractions that I am unable to influence more than I have already done. I feel re-engaged with my commitment to be the best artist that I can be and with my belief that by doing so I will make something worthy of exhibition.