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Swedish parties reveal temporary asylum plan

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Party representatives at Friday's press conference. Photo: Vilhelm Stokstad/TT
10:40 CEST+02:00
UPDATED: The Swedish government and four opposition parties have agreed to introduce temporary residence permits for a number of refugees arriving in the Nordic country.

Sweden's ruling Social Democrat-Green coalition and the four parties in the centre-right Alliance opposition (the Moderates, the Centre Party, the Liberals and the Christian Democrats) presented the new agreement on refugee immigration and integration at a press conference on Friday morning.

"We have got further than many thought we would. Perhaps even a bit further than we ourselves thought," Justice and Migration Minister Morgan Johansson of the Social Democrats told reporters.

The parties agreed to introduce temporary residence permits rather than permanent ones, an idea mainly pushed for by Anna Kinberg Batra's Moderate Party, in the coming three years. Families with children and unaccompanied minors arriving in the country will be excepted from the hotly debated proposal.

The politicians also agreed to make it mandatory for all local authorities to take in a share of refugees. A 10 billion kronor grant is to be shared between Sweden's councils in 2015 to help them cope with the influx.

The announcement came as Germany said it planned to introduce tougher asylum laws by Saturday. Both countries have been fighting for a fairer distribution of asylum seekers across the EU in recent weeks.

Sweden's parties agreed on Friday to raise the number of migrants the country accepts under EU quotas to 5,000 (from 1,900) and to look at ways of finding more legal ways for refugees to seek asylum in member states. Efforts will also be boosted to ensure people who have had their applications rejected leave the country.

The government also announced that it would request that the EU helps relocate some of Sweden's asylum seekers to other member states, to help share the burden.

"We say that not just Greece and Italy should be part of this redistribution scheme, but Sweden as well. And I have brought this up with the commission's chairman Juncker and the council's chairman Tusk, that the situation is such that you have to count on that we will put forward a request of that kind," Prime Minister Stefan Löfven told the TT news agency after the press conference.

To help new arrivals integrate, the parties agreed to introduce Swedish tuition at asylum accommodation centres. The government will also increase tax deductions for work in the home (the so-called 'Rut deduction') to include IT services, home removal and gardening work, a proposal put forward by the Social Democrats' minor coalition partners, the Greens.

The Left Party, which formed part of earlier talks, was left out of the cross-party deal.

"The government has chosen to close the door to the Left Party in the negotiations. They have chosen to join the Conservative's very restrictive line," its representative Nooshi Dadgostar told Aftonbladet.

However the Social Democrats' representative Ylva Johansson told Friday's press conference the party had left of their own accord.

The anti-immigration Sweden Democrat party has not been part of the talks either.

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Friday's agreement followed days of crisis talks between the mainstream parties as Sweden continues to take in record numbers of refugees fleeing war in Africa and the Middle East.

On Thursday the Migration Agency revealed that up to 190,000 asylum seekers are expected to arrive in the Nordic country in 2015, more than twice as many as previously predicted. Of those, 29,000 to 40,000 are expected to be children travelling alone.

Another wave of between 100,000 and 170,000 people are predicted for 2016.

"We note that the current refugee situation is unprecedented in modern times. We see pictures of people literally walking from Greece, across the Balkans and Germany and towards the Nordic countries. More people than ever are seeking asylum in Europe, but there is no border control and no exact figure," its director-general Anders Danielsson told reporters at a press conference in Stockholm on Thursday.

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