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16th Dec 2018

Sweden to tap Hungary's EU relocation quota

  • Sweden expects 160,000 claims this year (Photo: atranswe)

Sweden, one of the main destination of migrants coming to Europe, is to ask the EU to relocate asylum seekers to other member states, prime minister Stefan Loefven announced Wednesday (4 November).

The decision to benefit from the EU mechanism will be formally taken by the council of ministers on Thursday and a letter will be sent to the European Commission immediately after, or on Friday.

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"It is time that other countries take responsibility and that is why the government requires redistribution of refugees from Sweden," Loefven wrote in a written statement to the AFP agency.

At a press conference after a meeting with European Council president Donald Tusk in Stockholm, Loefven noted that "Sweden has taken the highest number of asylum seekers per capita" and that the situation "is not sustainable."

Between 160,000 and 190,000 asylum seekers are expected in the country this year, including 30,000 unaccompanied minors.

The figure is up from 81,000 in all of 2014.

But the Swedish Migration Agency recently warned it could 25,000 to 45,000 sleeping places short by the end of the year.

'Sweden deserves support'

"Sweden is not able now to receive people the way we want to do and the way we are used to do. Our reception system and local communities are now overstretched," Loefven said.

Standing besides Loefven, Tusk gave his backing to Sweden's demand.

"I am absolutely sure that Sweden deserve support from our side," Tusk said. "There is a limit to what we can realistically manage."

No figure was given, but Sweden will ask to take over part of the 54,000 asylum seekers quota that was offered to and rejected by Hungary in September.

"That is still to be discussed with the EU Commission," Loefven said.

Under the EU mechanism to relocate 160,000 asylum seekers, only Italy and Greece can relocate asylum seekers to other countries. Hungary turned down the offer because it opposed the principle of relocations.

According to the system of quotas set up to share the refugees between member states, Sweden is supposed to receive 3,728 people. It has so far received 38 people from Italy and notified 300 places available.

It is unclear whether Sweden will continue to receive asylum seekers in the relocation system while also benefiting from it.

"That is something we have to discuss with the commission," the Swedish PM's office told EUobserver.

The Swedish EU appeal is part of a cross-party agreement signed on 23 October by Sweden's red-green government with the liberal and conservative opposition on how to face arrivals of migrants in the country.

Ongoing process

Sweden's decision was announced the day of the first flight of relocated people left from Greece to Luxembourg, and will complicate the implementation of the relocation plans.

After Wednesday's relocation of 30 Syrians and Iraqis, 116 of the 160,000 asylum seekers have been moved. The EU Commission said that only 2,314 places have been so far made available by 15 member states.

No deadline has been given to states to provide places.

The 2,314 places refer to the number of places immediately available, that is "before the end of the year", a EU source told EUobserver.

"We are at a very early stage," the Commission's spokesman Margaritis Schinas told press.

"It is an ongoing process. I would not rush for a definitive judgement," he added, on whether the Commission's flagship plan to address the migrant crisis will be a success or a failure.

The Commission said the next planned relocations will be from Italy to Finland, France and Spain. But it gave no numbers of refugees or dates.

Sweden beset by anti-migrant arson attacks

Ten asylum homes across Sweden were set alight in October. As police search for the culprits, debate is rife on how to cope with the influx of migrants and the rhetoric of the far-right Sweden Democrats.

Sweden reintroduces border controls

Sweden becomes fourth EU and Schengen state to introduce emergency border controls, citing overwhelming migrant numbers. Denmark could be next.

Opinion

Sweden must be able to say No to refugees

Swedish people should open their brains, not just their hearts, on refugees. The harsh logic is that we're failing to integrate people, because we can't provide decent jobs.

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