Supermarket rescues asylum seekers

New security rules have led to asylum seekers being shut out by state-owned Svensk Kassaservice, forcing them instead to turn to the bank owned by the Ica supermarket chain as the only way of receiving benefits to which they are entitled.

Asylum seekers aren’t granted Swedish personal numbers, thus making it nearly impossible for them to open bank accounts with the banks. They, along with thousands of other immigrants, also lack the opportunities to get themselves Swedish IDs which would grant them to access bank accounts, including accounts with state-owned counter service provider Svensk Kassaservice.

Until Svensk Kassaservice changed its policy on 1st January, asylum seekers received their benefits paid out to accounts at Svensk Kassaservice. Because of the general tightening of policy to recognize applicants for accounts or for applicants to obtain a Swedish ID, the Swedish Migration Board was forced to find a solution elsewhere for asylum seekers.

Asylum seekers who require financial support are paid out a maximum of 71 kronor per day if they are on their own, or 61 kronor per day as part of a couple. There is additional money paid for children as needed. There are other payouts of benefits for asylum seekers as the need arises. All of this money needs a way to be distributed.

The Migration Board rejected the option to store and pay out cash, citing security reasons. They looked at various alternatives, but found that the major banks were unwilling to provide a solution. Ica and its Ica bank AB came to the rescue.

Marie Andersson at the Migration Board told the Local that they are relatively satisfied with this as an interim solution. However, it comes at a price. “It is not ideal. It’s quite expensive.”

It’s estimated that the cost to the Swedish taxpayer is seven million kronor per year to distribute an annual pay out of approximately 70 million kronor. The Migration Board’s agreement with Ica will expire in March 2008 when they will take in new bids from the various banking and financing institutions.

Elizabeth Dacey-Fondelius