Parties demand amnesty for asylum seekers

Five of Sweden's seven political parties have proposed that refugees who sought asylum before the end of 2004 be granted a general amnesty for humanitarian reasons, amid criticism of the country's asylum process.

However, the five parties behind the motion fall short of a majority in parliament and the proposal’s future therefore looks uncertain.

The motion came a day after Swedish church leaders submitted a petition with 160,000 names to Migration Minister Barbro Holmberg calling for a more humane refugee policy.

The proposed amnesty would apply to about 13,000 asylum-seekers, as well as 2,800 others whose applications had been rejected but who could not be sent back to their countries of origin due to instability there.

It would also apply to some 18,000 people who have gone into hiding since their applications have been rejected.

Amnesty would be granted to any refugee who sought asylum by December 31, 2004 but who had still not received permanent residency as of December 1, 2005, and whose identity had been confirmed.

“These are people who have suffered through an inhumane asylum process,” a member of parliament for the Christian Democrats, Sven Brus, told TT.

The motion pointed out international criticism of Sweden’s asylum process, which has been blasted for being too lengthy and leaving refugees to live in a situation of uncertainty, sometimes for years.

“Sharp criticism has been forthcoming from United Nations’ bodies and from non-governmental organisations which promote human rights, because Sweden neglects its international commitments concerning refugees’ right to protection. The criticism has been justified,” the motion reads.’

The five parties behind the proposal are the Christian Democrats, Liberals, Left, Center and Greens, which together hold only 150 of 349 seats in parliament.

For the motion to be adopted, either of Sweden’s two largest parties, the ruling Social Democrats and the opposition conservative Moderate Party, would have to support it. (AFP)