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24th Jun 2018

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Swedish crackdown targets migrant families

  • Swedish MPs backed the proposal by a broad majority (Photo: Riksdagen)

Sweden’s parliament passed a restrictive asylum law on Tuesday (21 June) that critics said could put more children at risk.

A broad majority backed the government’s proposal, which aims to sharply reduce the number of asylum seekers over a three-year period during which Sweden is to improve its capacity for reception and integration of migrants.

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  • Critics said more women and children likely to attempt perilous crossings as families try to stick together (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

The law makes it harder for people who get asylum, but who are not classified as refugees, to bring in family members. It also replaces permanent residence permits with temporary ones, which must be renewed every 13 months.

The Social Democratic-Green coalition government said its goal was to bring Sweden in line with the EU’s minimal conditions for asylum rights.

Justice and migration minister, Morgan Johansson, told MPs on Monday that Sweden had done more than any other country for the world’s refugees.

”But we can’t help everyone”, he said.

One hundred and sixty thousand people applied for asylum in Sweden last year, with 114,000 of them lodging claims in just a four-month period in autumn.

Johansson said Sweden had managed to deal with the unprecedented situation and praised the national migration agency and civil society for their efforts.

”But we cannot underestimate the political effects of the situation,” he said.

”Many Swedes felt the authorities were losing control of the situation. That could have been exploited by far-right forces”, he added.

The law comes despite a sharp drop in the number of asylum seekers in the country. So far this year, fewer than 14,000 have applied. 

The Swedish bill was said to have deep flaws by all 36 organisations that the government consulted in the legislative process. The Council on Legislation, the Swedish equivalent of a constitutional court, was also critical, but finally gave its lukewarm approval.

Save the Children, an international charity, said the law went against the UN declaration on the rights of the child, which is on its way to becoming legally binding in Swedish law.

”Family reunion is one of the few legal ways for coming to Sweden today,” Save the Children said.

”The new law can drive more families to set out on life-threatening journeys as parents don’t want to risk never seeing their family members again. More children risk to drown in the Mediterranean”, it added.

The charity said the law is counter-productive as people who left their families in a war zone would not be psychologically equipped to lead a productive life in Sweden.

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.

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