Making the Most of a Long Wait


Sulaiman Saleh has a PhD in intercultural communication. He has studied and conducted research in his native country Palestine, as well as in Malaysia. Today he is living in a refugee camp in Jönköping in Sweden, waiting for the Swedish Migration Agency to reach a decision regarding his application for asylum, a decision that has taken more than a year this far.

Sulaiman Saleh in Gothenburg
Photo: Joacim Schmidt

During the Gaza War, an armed conflict between Palestinians in the Gaza strip and Israel that lasted for three weeks in December 2008 and January 2009, Sulaiman Saleh was forced to leave his home country. There he had been a university student and, among other things, earned a bachelor’s degree in English studies. He chose to go to Malaysia, as the relations between the country and Palestine are favourable and Palestinians can travel there without needing a visa.

In Malaysia, he enrolled at the National University of Malaysia where he continued his studies, now focusing on intercultural communication.
“I got my master’s degree there, as well as my PhD.”

Alongside attaining his degrees, he also worked several jobs. For instance at a high-end jewellery store where he handled marketing and was a manager trainee, and at educational management events where he functioned as a coach.

I had to leave directly after I defended my thesis

Unfortunately, troubles from Sulaiman Saleh’s home country eventually followed him to Malaysia. After having lived there for nine years, he was again forced to relocate just as he had earned his doctoral degree.
“I had to leave directly after I defended my thesis.”

Having gotten a Schengen visa Sulaiman Saleh made his way to Europe and to Sweden. He stayed with friends living close to Örebro while he waited for his visa to run out, which would enable him to seek asylum in Sweden.

He sent in his asylum application in May 2018 and initially the Swedish Migration Agency wanted to place him in Kiruna, in the far north of Sweden. However, Sulaiman Saleh had already been in touch with Jönköping University during his time in Sweden, and had gotten an offer he did not want to miss.
“They had sent me an invitation to present my research on intercultural communication to a research group there.”

Convincing the Migration Agency not to send him to Kiruna was not easy, but Sulaiman Saleh managed it and eventually he got a place at a refugee camp in Jönköping. In May this year, he held his presentation at Jönköping University, and the reactions there were positive.
“A professor talked to the department head who is in charge of hiring, who turned out to be interested in hiring me as a teacher.”

Sulaiman Saleh has been offered to give a total of 20 lectures in three different courses, for both postgraduates and undergraduates. He is currently waiting to get a Swedish personal identity number, so that he can start a bank account and sign the necessary paperwork at the university.

He would gladly accept a heavier workload. That would make it easier for him to move out of the refugee camp and into his own place. However, as an asylum seeker it is hard to get long-term job offers.
“Once you get a permit to stay your opportunities will be better,” says Sulaiman Saleh, hoping that his wait for a decision from the Migration Agency will soon come to an end.

Recently Sulaiman Saleh participated at a BRiDGE II workshop focusing on supporting refugee researchers in finding work opportunities outside of academia, hosted by Welcome Services at the University of Gothenburg.

Originally published 2 July 2019