Sweden’s new migrant restrictions will not be in place before 2016

Stefan Löfven

Stefan Löfven [Socialdemokraterna, 2014/Flickr]

New rules aimed at tightening Sweden’s migration policies to discourage further asylum seekers from seeking to enter the country will not come into force until at least next year, and possibly 2017, according to the Ministry for Justice and Migration.

The rules were passed by a majority in the Swedish parliament last week, and include the introduction of temporary residence permits of three years for adults who arrive in Sweden without children. The temporary residence permit can only be extended if the asylum seeker still needs protection or has found a job in the meantime. 

“Now we have started a process in the government to put the law in place before there will be a consultation. Then it should enter into force next year, alternatively in 2017,” Jonatan Holst, a press secretary at the Ministry for Justice and Migration, told Sweden’s Radio.

However, the ministry expects that it will be possible to not only include aylum seekers who arrive in Sweden after the law enters into force, but also retrospectively those who came to Sweden over the past couple of years under the new law. 

Last week, the Migration Agency announced that Sweden is likely to receive up to 190,000 asylum seekers in 2015. The previous estimate published over the summer was 74,000 asylum seekers.

>> Read: Sweden expects 190,000 asylum seekers in 2015

The new estimate, together with the growing popularity for the far-right party the Sweden Democrats, plus more than twenty incidents of homes for asylum seekers set on fire this year, forced last Friday (23 October) a majority of centre-left and right parties in the parliament to change Sweden’s open and liberal approach to immigration by introducing new, stricter laws. 

The small Scandinavian country of around 10 million people has received more asylum seekers per capita than any other EU member state over the past few years. For 2016, the Migration Agency expects 100,000-170,000 asylum seekers, though that estimate is uncertain.

The agency expects the cost of the refugee crisis in Sweden to be €6.4 billion in 2016 and €7.8 billion in 2017.

While Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, a Social Democrat, has called the migration situation in Sweden “unsustainable”, Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson has said that the cost of the high number of asylum seekers will result in increased taxes and budget cuts over the next year. She also threatened to cut Sweden’s foreign aid contribution.

Also on Friday, Sweden requested to become part of the EU’s refugee relocation scheme in the hope that thousands of its asylum seekers could be shared out among other member states.

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.

  • 2016/2017: New, tighter, migration rules in Sweden to enter into force.

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