On the front line in the fight for a Swedish provisional passport

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On the front line in the fight for a Swedish provisional passport

At half past four in the morning, the group waiting for provisional passports has already self-organised, with a leader and a list of the order in which they arrived.

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Sanna Mohammed gestures to where I should set my chair and goes through the system, double checking that everyone is on her list.

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“It’s because all of us have been waiting the whole night, so we made a list because we didn’t want people who come after us to push in front,” she says.


There are about a dozen people huddled under the brutalist concrete porch of the police passport office in Malmö, hoping to get their hands on the single-use pink passports which will allow them to travel to see relatives or go on holiday.

Mohammad has been waiting since 6.30pm. Others have come in dribs and drabs throughout the night.

Richard Orange poses for a selfie with other people waiting in the queue for provisional passports. Photo: Richard Orange

There’s a surprising amount of solidarity. I came dressed for a summer’s day and was shivering within half an hour. One of my fellow queuers lent me a blanket.

When I started running out of battery, another presented me with a fully loaded power bank.


The queue is representative of Malmö’s population, perhaps slightly skewed to first and second-generation immigrants.

Presumably, they are both more likely to travel and less likely to have renewed their passports during the pandemic.

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Looking at the queue, I’m quite optimistic, but then I discover that when the office closed at 7pm the day before, the group of around 50 people waiting were given queue numbers which they could use when the office opens.

When the guards arrive and the doors open, half of those on the list have not arrived and lose their places in line.

But, to the annoyance of those who have been waiting all night, as the late ones arrive over the next few hours, they get let in anyway.

“It hasn’t worked. They’re letting people in who they shouldn’t let in,” Mohammad complains despondently. “They promised that they would follow the list from yesterday but it’s all gone wrong.”

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The guards, smiling and jolly, do a good job of calming everyone down. They’re also managing a long queue for those who’ve come to pick up passports already ordered.

It’s midday before the first of those who were waiting all night start to be let in, and the guards are uncertain of the chances of those who weren’t on Mohammad’s list.

“We’re screwed,” concludes a half-English and half-Swedish queuer. “We’re here all the way till Sunday. There’s no way we’re getting in today.”

By 6pm, I’ll know if he’s right.

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