Stefan Nystrom’s deportation ‘led to criminal relapse’

By Andy Park, SBS

In classical mathematics, the ‘Stefan Problem’ tries to explain equations that are altered by an environmental change, such as ice melting into water.


Stefan Nystrom is no different. A complex problem, in a transitional state of meltdown, away from his home environment.

In his first interview from a Swedish prison – Nystrom has received 47 criminal convictions since his deportation there from Australia – he appears bewildered and unable to understand simple questions.

“It’s more that I’m upset, you know? I can’t handle this, it’s wrong,” he says.

Watch the full interview with Stefan Nystrom:


According to Swedish court documents obtained by SBS, Nystrom is serving a three-month term for six charges, ranging from the unlawful use of amphetamines and shoplifting to damaging and threatening official property and persons.

Born in Sweden, Nystrom and his mother moved to Australia when he was 27 days old – he was raised here and believed he was a citizen until he received a letter from the government in 2004.

The letter revealed that his Australian visa had been cancelled due to his lengthy criminal record.

“All the [Australian] crimes I have been charged with I have done my time so they shouldn’t be giving me another… they shouldn’t deport me,” Nystrom, 39, said from prison.

Since his deportation to Sweden, where he does not speak the language, Nystrom has battled depression, anger and drug addiction issues.

Court testimony reveals he sometimes hears voices and he freely admits to carrying around a knife.

Nystrom’s supporters say his deportation to Sweden triggered a relapse into criminal behaviour – a belief supported by an Australian expert on the mental health of displaced people.

Psychologist Amanda Gordon, who advises the Department of Immigration on the mental health of asylum seekers through the Detention Health Advisory Group, said his recidivism was unsurprising.

“It was inevitable that he was going to decline in his mental state and therefore in his actions and behaviours,” Ms Gordon said.

“We know that he behaved properly for the nine or so years after his release from prison here – we assume that he found a way of managing,” she said.


A landmark ruling by the UN Human Rights Committee last year found that Australia’s deportation of Nystrom was a breach of his human rights and ordered the government to assist with his return.

The Federal Government has refused to recognise the ruling.

A spokesman for Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said “all non-citizens who wish to enter or remain in Australia must satisfy the requirements of the Migration Act and Regulations, including the character test – and this individual did not.”

“The government is aware of the UNHRC’s judgement and responded accordingly.”

Nystrom, who alternates between a life on the streets and time in prison, seems to be unaware of these developments.

“I think it’s pretty shit you know, pretty shit. I don’t really know what to say at the moment – it’s unbelievable,” he said.

Nystrom’s barrister, Brian Walters QC, said Australia’s international standing could be damaged by not respecting the UNHRC’s decision.

“Disrespect for the institutions of the United Nations, which this is a pretty glaring example of, is not going to help us at all in our bid for a seat on the security council,” Mr Walters said.

“Why should the nations of the world respect us when we don’t respect the institutions we said we would respect,” he said.

In the nine years between his release from prison in Australia and his deportation to Sweden, Nystrom said he lived a happy life picking fruit around Swan Hill in Victoria.

“It was good, I had work, I have me own caravan, I had everything, it was good. I had a life,” he said.

“I’m an Aussie, I’m 100 per cent Australian. I don’t speak Swedish. I’ve been here for a while but I have a learning difficulty I can’t pick up on this language. But I’m an Aussie, through and through,”


Ms Gordon, who has implemented psychological welfare programs for asylum seekers in Australian detention centres, said at least they are provided with peer and language support.

“[Nystrom is] a very sad man talking about a very sad life, he’s been disconnected from anything that is important to him. I hope that, if he can return, he can feel that it’s a good enough life again,” she said.

But it seems Nystrom is not coming home. He, his family in Australia, and his legal advisors worry that the perception of his overseas crimes may damage his case for repatriation.

“[They] could have, I’m not too sure but they shouldn’t take that into account,” Nystrom says.

“It’s got nothing to do with Australia what I get charged for here so I hope it hasn’t damaged it.

“I don’t know what it’s going to take. Maybe a change of government.”

In the Swedish regional remand centre, Nystrom is asked if he wants to add anything.

“Hello Mum!” he laughs, adding: “No, look, see in your hearts to take me back home”.

As with his mathematical namesake, the problem of Stefan Nystrom is proving difficult to solve.

(This interview was recorded with the assistance of Sweden’s TV4.)