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Migration Board slams refugee housing plan

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12:17 CEST+02:00
The head of Sweden's Migration Board (Migrationsverket) has slammed a proposal that would cut benefits for asylum seekers who refuse to live in housing set aside for those waiting to have their claims heard.

“[It's] an attempt at social engineering which doesn't work in reality. A poorly supported reform,” Migration Board director Dan Eliasson said to the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper.

The proposal comes from a report presented in February by a commission led by Sören Häggroth and tasked by the government with finding ways to relieve pressure on Sweden's larger cities, which have struggled to cope with a disproportionate number of the country's asylum seekers.

The report suggests offering asylum seekers subsidies if they agree to spend their first month in Sweden living in Migration Board-managed housing facilities set up specifically for incoming refugees.

Asylum seekers who chose not to live in the Migration Board facilities would have their publicly funded housing allowances reduced.

Following their time in Migration Board housing, refugees would then be directed to areas in Sweden with both available housing and jobs.

But Danielsson disagrees with the commission's findings, claiming the report “isn't based on research or experience”.

He adds that the proposal would make life especially hard for children of asylum seekers, who would be forced to endure a number of moves during their first months in Sweden.

“It's obvious that there isn't housing where there are jobs and that there aren't jobs where there is housing. Society hasn't managed to solve this. How then can the Migration Board be expected to square that circle?” said Eliasson.

The commission report, entitled “Aktiv väntan – asylsökande i Sverige” (‘Actively waiting – seeking asylum in Sweden') has received an unusually high number – 91 – of consultation comments and is currently under review.

A referral on the matter to the Council on Legislation (Lagrådet) is expected by the end of the year.

Currently, 57 percent of asylum seekers in Sweden live in housing of their own choosing, while 43 percent live in Migration Board housing, according to DN.

At the same time, the number of would-be refugees coming to Sweden has also been steadily decreasing from a high watermark of 36,207 in 2007 to a forecast of 22,000 for 2009.

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