Half of those refused asylum stay in Sweden

In the last four years, 50% of those who have been refused asylum in Sweden have gone underground and have simply vanished from the Board of Migration's statistics. And of the half who have actually been sent home, a full 20% have come straight back to Sweden to try their luck again.

That is in accordance with the rules of the Geneva Convention, which states that asylum seekers who have been deported to their homeland have the right to return and have their case tried again. Each time they return must be treated as a new case.

But now, reported Swedish Radio, the Swedish Board of Migration is considering pushing for a change in the rules to prevent the bounceback effect. Norway and Germany both have special rules for ‘second time applicants’ which means cases are dealt with more quickly and asylum seekers have a shorter time in which to appeal.

“One thing we have proposed is that we could actually carry out these decisions again, so we don’t always have to deal with a new application,” said Anna Wessel, who is responsible for asylum issues at the board.

“I’m not prepared to introduce it straight away but I’m prepared to consider it,” she added, noting that any changes would have to be investigated to ensure they did not infringe people’s human rights.

The number of people seeking asylum in Sweden has fallen significantly this year. In the first six months of 2005, the Swedish Board of Migration handled 7,985 cases, down 30% from the 11,445 dealt with in the same period last year.

But the cost of ejecting people from the country is higher than ever. While the cost to the board of managing an asylum applicant’s case is an average of 7,600 kronor, the cost of actually making sure someone leaves the country is far higher.

In 2004, a total of 2,026 supervised deportations cost 148.3 million kronor, up 34% on the year before.

The rise is blamed on the increasing demands for more staff to help take people out of the country. One deportation requires at least two people, said Tina Hendriksson, a finance inspector at the Prison Service’s transport office.

“Lately more people have been needed. That’s because those who are deported are in poor psychological or physical condition, or simply don’t want to be expelled,” she told Dagens Nyheter.

“We have also been forced to charter whole planes to a greater extent than earlier,” added Göran Stenbeck, head of the transport office.

In fact, the transport office chartered 92 planes in 2004 – sometimes for just one person – at a total cost of 12.5 million kronor.

Merit Wagner, the ‘citizens refugee ombudsman’, criticised the soaring costs, calling the Prison Service’s transport office “Sweden’s most expensive travel agency”.

“It’s a mismanagement of taxpayers’ money,” she told DN, which revealed that supervisors often travel business class and stay at luxury hotels while they’re away.

Roal Nilsson, the ombudsman of the Seko union representing the supervisors, pointed out that long distance travel with a rejected asylum seeker isn’t all fun and games.

“The personnel must be on guard the whole time – on the way home they should be more comfortable,” he said.

“You should use the cheapest travel option where possible, but most importantly you should have a good working environment,” he said.

Sources: Dagens Nyheter, Svenska Dagbladet, SR, SVT