Asylum seekers face housing shortage

Sweden’s 2006 amnesty for asylum seekers has created a housing shortage. The Swedish Integration Board said some 18,000 asylum seekers who are still expected to receive permits this year need permanent housing.

Asylum seekers who who were originally denied the right to stay in Sweden, but who ended up staying thanks to the amnesty, needed to be found somewhere to live. Many municipalities have refused to take them in.

“We didn’t know what to do with them,” said Sven-Ove Johansson, an expert on new arrivals with the Swedish Integration Board to The Local on Friday.

Lawmakers gave many of them permits, but the government has had a tough time finding them housing.

The Integration Board said nearly a third of all Swedish municipalities have yet to agree to take in the foreigners, while some 50 have just flat out said no.

“It is a complicated system,” Johansson said. “The municipalities can say no to us, but they can’t say no to an asylum seeker who shows up in their municipality and says, ‘Here I am.’”

When asked if the Integration Board supported foreigners to go and find their own housing in Sweden, Johansson said it was good for immigrants to find lodgings on their own initiative.”

“We are not encouraging them, but we are not discouraging them,” he said, adding that it is against the law for municipalities to turn people away.

He said Sweden has already given permits to 15,300 refugees this year who have found housing around the country.

“Today there are 2,000-3,000 foreigners with permits who have not arrived in a municipality with housing,” Johansson said. “There are still another 15,000 waiting in Sweden in housing scattered around the country who are expected to receive a permit this year and need a municipality to give them a place to stay. It is more or less amnesty.”

He said if an asylum seeker is denied the right to remain but stays anyway, Sweden will eventually give him a permit rather than sending him back to a country where he might not be wanted.

“Their own countries, like Iran and Somalia, don’t want them back, so here they are sitting in Sweden,” Johansson said. “Only about 20 percent have their applications accepted, but those who are denied because they have bad cases will probably get a permit if they don’t want to leave.”

Staffanstorp municipality, in southern Sweden, doesn’t have an agreement with the Swedish Migration Board this year, but the Board wants the authority to take in another 70 foreigners.

Staffanstorp said no, just as some 50 others have.

“There isn’t even one house in the municipality and we already have long housing lines,” said Ingalill Hellberg, director of Staffanstorp, according to Dagens Nyheter. “That is why we said no.”

Johansson said the municipalities don’t have a choice if a person wants to live there, adding that the Integration Board pays municipalities 165,000 kronor for each adult they take in.

He said studies in the past showed that the money given to the municipality is about 10 percent to 15 percent lower than what the local government needs to provide housing and education to the asylum seekers.

“It depends on how efficient a municipality is whether the fee we give them covers costs,” Johansson said.

He said Sweden should be able to find homes for all but about 3,000 of those now waiting. He said it would be up to politicians to figure out what they will do next year.