Though the number of refugees arriving in Sweden has dropped by 60% since tougher asylum policies were adopted in November, the far-right Sweden Democrats are receiving unpecedented levels of support, according to a new poll.
Conducted by Novus and published by TV4, a new poll shows that the Sweden Democrats would get 22% of the votes (up 1.3% since November) if Sweden held general elections today, making them the biggest opposition party ahead of the Moderates, at 21.4%.
Only the governing center-left Social Democrats received more votes (24.7%). The Sweden Democrats, and its leader, Jimmie Åkesson are, according to the poll, the most popular party among Swedish men.
The government said it would now only grant temporary residence permits for refugees, and only live up to the minimum standards under international and EU laws in its asylum policies.
Sweden is expected to receive up to 200,000 asylum applications in 2015, which is the highest number per capita in the EU. The European Commission has therefore said that the Scandinavian country should be exempted from receiving more refugees under the EU’s refugee relocation scheme.
“The pressure is remarkably lower now. Five weeks ago, when it was at the highest, we received 10,000 asylum seekers per week. Now we are down to only a third of that number,” Johan Harald from the Migration Agency told Sveriges Radio.
Meanwhile, 395 refugees also chose to withdraw their application in October, a figure which rose to 627 in November.
On Thursday, the Swedish parliament is expected to vote in favour of introducing ID checks on buses, trains and ferries that arrive in Sweden. The country is already carrying out border controls on the Øresund bridge, which connects Sweden with Denmark.
Mats Knutson, a political commentator for the broadcaster SVT, commented that for Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, the poll is very worrying, especially since he has already given in and swallowed big concessions in the migration area.
How the government handles the refugee crisis will be crucial before the next general elections. The only solution for Löfven to get out of his party’s crisis appears to be either teaming up with the right-wing opposition parties, or to cooperate with the Sweden Democrats, according to Knutson.
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 hundred thousands of 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.
- Sveriges radio: The number of asylum seekers decreases [in Swedish]
- SVT: Knutson: Cooperation between blocs only solution for the government [in Swedish]