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Refugees shun Sweden over long waiting times

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Many migrants travel to Sweden through Italy. Photo: AP Photo/Luca Bruno
17:14 CEST+02:00
Fewer asylum seekers are expected to arrive in Sweden in 2015. One of the reasons is that the Nordic country is no longer seen as a good place to seek refuge, the Swedish Migration Board said on Thursday.

A news prognosis by Sweden's Migration Board (Migrationsverket) brings the number of predicted asylum seekers down from the figure of 90,000 suggested in February to 74,000. 

With around 80,000 people applying for asylum in Sweden in the past year, the Scandinavian country still welcomes more migrants per capita than any other EU nation.

But as news spreads about long waiting times and cumbersome bureaucracy, more and more migrants are avoiding travelling so far north, said the board on Thursday.

As The Local reported earlier this year, asylum seekers arriving in Sweden are likely to face a wait of up to six months before they can have their case heard, as migration officers struggle to cope with the workload.

“The processing times are pretty long compared to Germany, which has a fast-track lane...in Sweden It is difficult to get housing and jobs; this affects people's choice of destination country,” Anders Danielsson, head of the Swedish Migration Board, told the TT newswire on Thursday.

READ ALSO: Sweden watches as EU migrant talks collapse

Germany, which receives the most refugees in Europe in real terms, is expected to have seen 400,000 migrants cross its borders at the end of the year. But other EU countries are also welcoming more asylum seekers. Hungary, Italy and France all accepted more than Sweden over the first three months of 2015.

However, Sweden still welcomes the most children in the EU. Around 12,000 children travelling alone are expected to arrive in Sweden in 2015, up from the previous predicted figure of 8,000.

“Half of all refugees in the world are children and a lot of them come to Europe. The number of children coming to Sweden is connected to the number of children in all of Europe rising dramatically,” said Danielsson.

READ ALSO: Jump in solo children seeking asylum

Another reason behind the Migration Board's revised figures is that it has become increasingly harder to travel through Europe. France has set up controls its border with Italy, which Switzerland is also considering, and Hungary is erecting a fence on the border to Serbia.

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It is estimated that more than 1,800 migrants have died so far in 2015 while making their way to Europe from war-torn nations such as Syria, Iraq and Libya, in packed boats travelling in dangerous conditions.

Sweden's foreign minister, Margot Wallström, recently told The Local: “What if we lived in a war zone? We would also want to flee somewhere safe with our children, or try to secure a future elsewhere. It has to do with whether or not we are serious in the EU about our guiding principles – this will affect our credibility.”

But Sweden's open borders have been strongly criticised by opposition groups in recent months. The nationalist Sweden Democrats - backed by 12.9 percent of voters in the last general election - want the Nordic nation to limit immigration and several centre-right parties have mooted the idea of giving refugees temporary rather than permanent residency permits.

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