Ganna Dharmarajah, a former Berkeley resident whose mother still lives here, was arrested by Swedish authorities on Saturday while vacationing in Sweden. She is now being detained at a center for asylum seekers, even though she says she has never sought asylum and is not now doing so.
Dharmarajah, 29, had traveled to Sweden in April from Sri Lanka, where she has been living since 2002. In a telephone interview with the Planet Thursday, Dharmarajah said that she didn’t understand why she was arrested and is still being detained.
“The Swedish police officers came to arrest me from my friend’s house in Umea,” she said. “They did not give me any reason. I was told that the Swedish immigration had sent them a fax to pick me up and that they were following orders.”
Dharmarajah was then taken to a detention center for asylum seekers.
On Monday, she was taken to another detention center in Gävle, which is located two hours outside Stockholm, the country’s capital. She currently has access to email and telephone.
Swedish authorities informed her that she was going to be deported to the United States, something she described as “illegal deportation.”
“I told them that I came as a tourist under the visa waiver scheme, which permits U.S. citizens to stay in Sweden for three months,” she said.
“I was planning to leave Sweden in June. I want to visit Japan next. I have a flight ticket to Japan. I am an American by birth. I have an American passport. I don’t want to be deported to the United States and I don’t want to be held in a detention center. I want to continue my plans to travel.”
Dharmarajah contacted the American Citizen’s Services at the U.S. Embassy in Sweden on Wednesday.
The Swedish government has paid for her lawyer Maria Guzman. Dharmarajah has also hired another lawyer from the American embassy’s list of legal counselors.
“My lawyers have told me that they have filed all the papers for me to be released immediately,” she said. “My mother who lives in Berkeley has also contacted the office of Congresswoman Barbara Lee. The people at the detention center also agree that I should not be in here.”
Dharmarajah’s lawyers could not be contacted Wednesday as it was late at night in Sweden.
Born to Sri Lankan parents, Dharma-rajah specialized in interdisciplinary studies at UC Berkeley and moved to Sri Lanka five years ago to get married. She has been living there since.