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Sweden: Limit on Asylum Seekers Reached, Measures to Cope with Influx

(Nov. 12, 2015) On November 5, 2015, the Minister of Migration and Justice, Morgan Johansson, announced that Sweden had reached the limit on its capacity to receive asylum seekers, stating, “all countries have a limit – this is where we are now.” After utilizing all available evacuation housing, the government could not guarantee, he added, that asylum seekers arriving in Sweden would be given a roof over their heads. (Press Conference (video), Kommentarer med anledning av flyktingsituationen (Nov. 5, 2015), REGERINGSKANSLIET.) In the meantime, the Migration Authority has announced that it will have to let people sleep in the Migrant Authority’s local offices. (Boendesituationen nu akut, MIGRATIONSVERKET (Nov. 5, 2015).)

Commentators on Johannsson’s announcement expect that the government will soon have to announce a rollback of its generous rules on accommodation for the asylum seekers. (Tomas Ramberg, Analys: Räkna med skärpt flyktingpolitik, SVERIGESRADIO (Nov. 4, 2015).) At the time of his announcement, Johansson had no clear answer as to what measures the government would take, but reiterated that asylum seekers arriving in Sweden will be faced with the alternative of finding housing on their own or be forced to return to Denmark or Germany. He added that a tent in Germany is better than no tent in Sweden. Johansson emphasized that there simply are not enough evacuation shelters to house the 1,700 to 2,000 asylum seekers who arrive each day. (Kommentarer med anledning av flyktingsituationen, supra.)

At a separate press conference held the day before, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven stated that he would request the European Commission to allow some of the asylum seekers in Sweden to be sent to other countries in the European Union. Thus, Sweden is seeking, instead of just being on the receiving end of recently agreed EU burden-sharing scheme for relocation of the asylum seekers to other EU Member States from the front-line states of Greece and Italy, to be on the redistribution end. (Anna Molin, Sweden Seeks to Relocate Migrants, WALLSTREET JOURNAL (Nov. 4, 2015) (subscription may be required for full access).)

The Swedish Migration Authority expects that asylum seekers will not receive a decision on their applications for asylum until 2017. (Stor osäkerhet i prognosen – EU:s agerande avgörande, MIGRATIONSVERKET (updated Oct. 22, 2015).)


 Johansson’s announcement came as the number of asylum seekers arriving in Sweden reached an unprecedented 2,000 a day, without any indication that the rate might slow down. Sweden, a country of almost ten million people, is expected to receive 150,000 to 190,000 asylum seekers in total this year, after having accommodated 80,000 last year. (Verksamhets- och utgiftsprognos Oktober 2015, MIGRATIONSVERKET (Oct. 22, 2015).) This makes Sweden the number one country in acceptance of asylum seekers in relation to its population. Johannsson contended it was equivalent to Great Britain receiving one million asylum seekers per year. (Kommentarer med anledning av flyktingsituationen, supra.) The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Margot Wallström, has warned that Sweden would face a complete collapse of the system to accommodate refugees if the large influx of asylum seekers continues. (Ewa Stenberg, Margareta Wallström om bränderna: SD har ett ansvar, DAGENS NYHETER (Oct. 30, 2015).)

Prior to the announcement that Sweden is at full housing capacity, on October 22, the government and the opposition had agreed to a new policy meant to reduce the number of asylum seekers entering Sweden, outlining a 21-point list of measures to deal with the refugee crisis. The list includes limiting the eligibility for permanent residency to quota refugees sent to Sweden through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, families with children, and unaccompanied minors. Other asylum seekers would be granted temporary residency permits. The government and opposition also agreed that new legislation forcing all municipalities to receive asylum seekers would be implemented. (Measures to Tackle the Refugee Crisis, GOVERNMENT OFFICES OF SWEDEN (Oct. 23, 2015) (click on hyperlink to view text of the Agreement).)

Unaccompanied Minors

Also on November 5, the Minister for Children, the Elderly and Gender Equality, Åsa Regnér, announced that the housing for unaccompanied children would as of January 2016 change from special homes “for living and care” (“HBV homes”) to a new form of housing based on less assistance. The new rules for housing youths aged 16 to 20 is intended to relieve the pressure on local municipalities that are trying to find and finance accommodation for large numbers of unaccompanied minors. (Press Release, Stödboende kan införas som ny placeringsform januari 2016, REGERINGSKANSLIET (Nov. 5, 2015).)

The Migration Authority has granted the municipalities of Trelleborg, Malmö, Mölndal, Solna, and Sigtuna a special exemption from the October 22 policy rule on forced reception of asylum seekers by municipalities, whereby unaccompanied minors cannot be sent to any of the above municipalities unless the municipality has a vacant accommodation or the child has a relative living in the municipality. (Trelleborgs kommun undantas anvisning av ensamkommande barn, MIGRATIONSVERKET (Oct. 9, 2015).) Individual municipalities have been complaining for some time that their limit for receiving refugees has been reached. (Id.) On November 9, the County of Vänersborg announced that they would refuse to house any more asylum seekers, stating, “we are well past the breaking point.” (Vänersborgs kommun: Vi klarar inte fler flyktingar, SVERIGESRADIO – P4 VÄST (Nov. 9, 2015).)

The Swedish Migration Authority estimates that a total of 40,000 unaccompanied minors will reach Sweden in 2015. (Verksamhets- och utgiftsprognos Oktober 2015, supra). As of November 1,the number of children who had applied for asylum was 23,349, comprising mostly teenage boys from Afghanistan and Syria. (Aktuell statistik, MIGRATIONSVERKET (last visited Nov. 6, 2015); Aktuellt om … ensamkommande barn & ungdomar, MIGRATIONSVERKET (Oct. 2015).)

Financing the Migration

The government is scrambling to finance the sharp increase in immigration. The Minister for Finance has announced that more funds will be taken from the development budget to support asylum seekers in Sweden. In addition, the government is planning on borrowing money to cover the expenses in the state budget for asylum costs and on cutting long-term illness benefits for Swedes. (Olof Svensson, Magdalena Andersson: “Vi har inte så mycket kapacitet kvar,” AFTONBLADET (Nov. 5, 2015).) The government will also ask the European Union for funding to support the asylum seekers. (Jens Kärrman, Sverige ansöker om nödmedel av EU för att klara av flyktingkrisen, DAGENSNYHETER (Nov. 5, 2015).)

The Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SKL), has announced that it will need to increase taxes to support the influx of asylum seekers, especially unaccompanied minors (Press Release, Dramatiskt läge för kommuner och landsting, SKL (Oct. 22, 2015).)