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Åkesson promises cuts to Sweden's immigration

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Jimmie Åkesson. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT
15:19 CEST+02:00
The Sweden Democrat party presented its 105 election proposals on Tuesday, with an estimated cost of 63 billion kronor in 2015. The manifesto focused on increasing Swedish welfare and limiting immigration.

The party's election manifesto, entitled "We choose welfare", stated that pension tax should be abolished, employer fees for small companies should be decreased, unemployment benefits should be hiked, and that there should be greater possibilities of working full-time in the public sector. 

Party leader Jimmie Åkesson said the suggestions would be funded primarily by restricting immigration and its costs, particularly the flow of refugees.

The party also suggested that 5.5 billion kronor ($793 million) be given to UNHCR, the UN's refugee agency - 3 billion more than earlier suggestions.

The change is part of the party's campaign promise "Less immigration here, more help for refugees there", and focuses on increased funding to UNHCR as opposed to taking in more immigrants. 

"The total cost for receiving asylum-seekers, not even integration costs, for 2015 is near 27 billion kronor according to the Migration Board," Oscar Sjöstedt, economy spokesman for the party, said in a statement on Tuesday.

"That can be compared to UNHCR's total budget for the same year, which is about 37 billion. But with that money UNHCR can help 39 million people in distress across the world."

UNHCR officials, however, have slammed the party for placing its work and refugee reception in opposition. 

"The one has nothing to do with the other," UNHCR Europe director Vincent Cochetel told newspaper Dagens Nyheter. "Asylum is a right. We're talking about fundamental human worth."

Cochetel also said he did not see how increased funds to UNHCR would decrease numbers of asylum seekers to Sweden.

"There are 1.3 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, a tiny country with a population of just over four million," he remarked. "The UNHCR getting more resources there or in Jordan would hardly impact how many seek asylum in Europe."

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Sweden Democrat secretary Björn Söder disagreed, saying that Cochetel was acting in his own interest and that there would indeed be fewer refugees for UNHCR to assist if many applied for asylum in Europe.

"It's critical to listen to those who are actually there, and UNHCR representatives are begging for resources. We saw that during our trip to the refugee camps," remarked Söder, who accompanied Åkesson on a trip to Jordan this past spring.

The party said that cutting back on immigration, as suggested in its manifesto, would save 15 billion kronor in 2015 alone.

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