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Sweden: Move Toward Providing Health Care, Education for Illegal Immigrants

(Mar. 14, 2011) The Swedish government and the Green Party recently announced an agreement on a policy toward migrants. The plan would allow even those in the country illegally to receive health care and education and would give them the right to run businesses. At a press briefing on March 3, 2011, Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt referred to the agreement as “historic” and said that the policy framework “gives us a long-term basis for a humane and orderly migration policy in accordance with the rule of law.” (David Jonasson, Government and the Greens in “Historic Agreement” on Migration Policy, STOCKHOLM NEWS (Mar. 3, 2011).) He added that Sweden would “continue on the road toward humanity and order” and that “this is a choice which closes the door on xenophobic forces.” (Sweden in “Historic” Deal on Immigration Policy, THE LOCAL (Mar. 3, 2011).)

Although many of the details of the planned policy have not been established, in addition to the basic initiative to extend benefits to all immigrants, it was stated that better identification procedures, including perhaps the use of DNA analysis, will be applied to claims for status under family reunification. It has been noted that families from some countries have difficulty obtaining documentation to legally establish family relations. (THE LOCAL, supra.) An independent research institute to study migration may also be established. The overall cost estimate for the new policy is SEK1.7 billion (about US$2.67 million), though there are unknown factors that could have an impact on the price of the reform. It is not known how many children of illegal immigrants will enter public schools at various levels, for example. (Jonasson, supra.)

The policy has been criticized from a number of different viewpoints. While supported by the Green Party and the four parties in the government coalition, the Moderates, the Christian Democrats, the Centre Party, and the Liberal Party, other groups have argued that it will make Sweden an even more attractive destination for immigrants than it is at present. Sweden Democrats leader Jimmie Åkesson, who opposes providing medical care and education for illegal immigrants, has stated that the initiative is “a step in a very wrong direction. It sends a clear signal that they want to make extreme immigration policies even more extreme.” (Id.)

Others, including the Social Democrats, do not like the policy of permitting illegal immigrants to own businesses. Party spokesperson Fredrik Lundh Sammeli stated, “[t]his partly leads to the legalization of undocumented migrants. And it can lead to problems, and human exploitation. And wage dumping.” (Id.)

The Left Party, on the other hand, has criticized the government and the Green Party for not going far enough in assuring humane treatment of immigrants. (Id.)