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Sweden prepares for record asylum arrivals

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Record numbers of asylum seekers are leaving Syria for Sweden. Photo: Shutterstock
07:43 CET+01:00
Sweden's Migration Board says it expects 83,000 asylum seekers will have moved to the country by the end of the year, 3000 more than it previously predicted.

Ongoing fighting in Iraq and Syria has already led to a sharp rise in asylum applications in Sweden.

In April, Sweden's Migration Board predicted that 61,000 people would apply this year, but by September it said it expected to assist 80,000 people by January 2015.

On Tuesday that figure was increased again to 83,000.

This is about as many as in 1992, when record numbers arrived during the Balkans war.

"This is a different situation from the Balkans," said the Chief Operating Officer for Sweden's Migration board Michael Ribbenvik.

"That was a temporary peak, now we do not think that the flow of refugees will subside. We believe the conflict in Syria will not be slowing down. Iraq is heading in the wrong direction, Afghanistan is uncertain and we see no improvement in the dictatorship of Eritrea," he revealed at a press conference on Tuesday.

With around 2,000 people arriving each week, there are signs that the influx of asylum seekers and refugees is starting to cause tensions in Sweden, a traditionally open and tolerant country.

As more people seek to resettle in Sweden, public costs are rising.

"I know that it will cause tension. I therefore appeal to the Swedish people to show patience and to open their hearts,” said former Prime Minister and Moderate Party leader Fredrik Reinfeldt in a key speech earlier this year.

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A major problem is that different municipalities in Sweden have adopted slightly different approaches to refugees, with some offering less protection for refugees than others. This means that new immigrants tend to cluster in certain areas such as Skåne and Stockholm.

In September's general election the nationalist anti-immigration Sweden Democrats won 12.9 percent of the vote and became the third largest party in Sweden.

Sweden's Migration Board also announced its full forecast for 2015 on Tuesday, suggesting that 95,000 asylum seekers would land in Sweden, 16,000 more than previously forecast. This would be a record for the country.

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