Sweden gets EU cash for refugees

Sweden is to be granted 30 million kronor by the European Union as compensation for receiving record numbers of Iraqi refugees.

According to the European Commission, the funds account for almost half of its immigration budget for the whole bloc; the rest will go to European nations around the Mediterranean which deal with increasing immigration from Africa. “We are doing what we can,” the commission’s spokesperson, Friso Roscam Abbing, told reporters yesterday.

After several months of trying to persuade the EU to “take more responsibility” towards Iraqi refugees, Foreign Minister Carl Bildt told Sveriges Radio on Saturday that the EU response was “welcomed”.

“It is good that we start taking up our shared European responsibility for immigration, but there is still a long way to go,” he told the Swedish Radio.

Sweden received around 9,000 Iraqi asylum applications last year, around half the number of asylum applications received across the bloc . Processing the applications is considered by the government as a financial strain, along with other costs such as preparing accepted refugees for life in Sweden.

Migration Minister, Tobias Billström has criticized the Commission for what he calls the lack of pan-European solidarity over refugees.

He argues that the cost to the Swedish state of receiving asylum seekers is set to rise to 12.2 billion kronor 2010, due to the increasing number of Iraqis being allowed to stay. The rate of immigration for the first three quarters of 2007 has so far kept pace with last year, when a record-breaking total of 95,750 people moved to Sweden.

TT/Rami Abdelrahman