The Swedish Migration Agency, Migrationsverket, announced on Thursday (22 October) that Sweden will likely receive 190,000 asylum seekers this year. This is more than double the previous estimate of 74,000 the agency issued last summer.
“The situation makes it look as if Sweden has a border with Turkey,” Anders Danielsson, the general director the Migration Agency, said at a news conference.
For 2016, the Migration Agency expects 100,000-170,000 asylum seekers, though the estimate is uncertain. Nonetheless, the small Scandinavian nation of 9.5 million is accepting more refugees per capita than any other EU member state this year.
The higher figure is also going to have an impact on the Swedish economy.
Earlier this year, Sweden’s centre-left government expected that the refugee crisis would cost the country €2 billion this year, an amount which has also now been doubled. In the coming years, the Migration Agency expects the figure to further surge, to €6.4 billion in 2016 and €7.8 billion in 2017.
The government has already indicated that the Swedes will have to pay this extra cost via higher municipal taxes.
On Wednesday (22 October), Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, a Social Democrat, visited a centre for asylum seekers and stated that his country has now almost reached the limit of its capacity to take in more asylum seekers.
Last night, the premier also held talks with leaders of parties represented in parliament on how Sweden should deal with the increased flow of refugees in recent months, without result.
For decades, all parties in parliament, except the nationalist Sweden Democrats, have backed a liberal approach to immigration.
However, according to polls, the party has grown stronger over the past few years, with some surveys suggesting that the Sweden Democrats currently have the support of 20-25% of voters.
The center-right is listening. Over weekend, Sweden’s biggest opposition party, the Moderates, suddenly decided to toughen its stance on immigration.
“We need to have control of our borders and the people who arrive, and we need to have a faster process in asylum cases,” said Anna Kinberg Batra, the leader of the Moderates, at a press briefing.
The move has put pressure on Löfven, who is due to present his government’s 2016 financial budget by November. If he fails to get one or more centre-right parties behind his budget this time, it’s likely that he will have to call an early general election.
The European Union has agreed on a plan, resisted by Hungary and several other ex-Communist members of the bloc, to share out 120,000 refugees among its members, a small proportion of the 700,000 refugees the International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates will reach Europe's borders from the Middle East, Africa and Asia this year.
The EU is also courting Turkey with the promise of money, visa-free travel, and new accession talks if Ankara tries to stem the flow of refugees across its territory.
- November 2015: Löfven expected to put forward Sweden's 2016 financial budget.
- Swedish radio: The migration agency published forecast [In Swedish]
- Aftonbladet: New forecast: 190,000 can apply for asylum this year [In Swedish]
- Aftonbladet: Löfven: We have alsmost reached the limit [In Swedish]