Migration Board slams refugee housing plan

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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Reader question: How do you meet the requirements for a sambo visa?

In Sweden, a sambo is domestic partner – someone you’re in a relationship with and live with, but to whom you aren’t married. If you, as a non-EU citizen, are in a sambo relationship with a Swedish citizen, you can apply for a residence permit on the basis of that relationship. But meeting the requirements of that permit is not always straightforward.

Reader question: How do you meet the requirements for a sambo visa?

An American reader, whose son lives with his Swedish partner, wrote to The Local with questions about the maintenance requirement her son and his partner must meet in order to qualify for a sambo resident permit.

“Their specific issue is that they meet the requirements for a stable relationship and stable housing, but have been told that qualifying for a sambo visa based on savings is unlikely,” she wrote, asking for suggestions on how to approach this issue. Her son’s partner is a student with no income, but whose savings meet maintenance requirements. But, they have been told by lawyers that Migrationsverket will likely deny the application based on the absence of the Swedish partner’s income.

How do relationships qualify for sambo status?

In order to apply for a residence permit on the basis of a sambo relationship, you and your partner must either be living together, or plan to live together as soon as the non-Swedish partner can come to Sweden. Because this reader’s son is already in Sweden as a graduate student, he can apply for a sambo permit without having to leave the country, provided that his student permit is still valid at the time the new application is submitted.

The Migration Agency notes that “you can not receive a residence permit for the reason that you want to live with a family member in Sweden before your current permit expires”. So once your valid permit is close to expiration, you can apply for a new sambo permit.

What are the maintenance requirements for a sambo permit?

The maintenance requirements for someone applying for a sambo permit fall on the Swedish partner, who must prove that they are able to support both themselves and their partner for the duration of the permit. This includes both housing and financial requirements.

In terms of residential standards that applicants must meet, they must show that they live in a home of adequate size – for two adult applicants without children, that means at least one room with a kitchen. If rented, the lease must be for at least one year.

The financial requirements are more complicated. The Swedish partner must be able to document a stable income that can support the applicant and themselves – for a sambo couple, the 2022 standard is an income of 8,520 kronor per month. This burden falls on the Swedish partner.

While the Migration Agency’s website does say that you may “fulfil the maintenance requirement (be considered able to support yourself) if you have enough money/taxable assets to support yourself, other persons in your household and the family members who are applying for a residence permit for at least two years”, it is unclear how proof of this would be documented. On a separate page detailing the various documents that can be used to prove that maintenance requirements are met, there is nothing about how to document savings that will be used to support the couple.

Can you apply on the basis of savings instead of income?

Well, this is unclear. The Migration Agency’s website does suggest that having enough money saved up to support both members of the sambo relationship is an option, but it gives no details on how to document this. It is also unclear whether applying on the basis of savings will disadvantage applicants, with preference given to applicants who can show proof of income from work.

The Local has reached out to an immigration lawyer to answer this question.