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Swedish towns strained by asylum seeker spike

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16:30 CEST+02:00
Many municipalities are feeling the squeeze from a large onslaught of asylum seekers.

The Swedish National Migration Board (Migrationsverket) has been forced to rent camps and other temporary accommodations to deal with the acute housing shortage.

Many small municipalities which have been forced to take in large numbers of applicants applicants on short notice are critical of the agency's actions.

So far this year, 22,045 applicants have sought asylum in Sweden. About 4,000 of them have declared Serbian citizenship, compared with only 421 in same period last year.

In September alone, 1,410 Serbian citizens arrived in the country. Local authorities are currently arranging acute services such as health care.

Tjörn municipality on the west coast north of Gothenburg set up temporary accommodation for 200 asylum seekers overnight last week at tourist area Tjörnbro Park. The day after the first call from the agency, 100 to 150 asylum seekers arrived.

"They called at 4.30pm in the afternoon on Tuesday and the next day, on Wednesday, the first of them arrived," municipal executive board chairman Martin Johansen told news agency TT.

He is very critical of how the small municipality of 15,000 residents did not know anything before then from the agency.

"They must have known earlier when the agreement and negotiation were under way. We understand that they must have accommodation, but they put us in a very difficult situation. I think it is a matter of decency to get in touch so that the municipality gets a reasonable chance to prepare itself," said Johansen.

The spike in the number of asylum seekers from the western Balkans stems from the granting of visa-free access to the EU/Schengen Area to citizens of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia.

With biometric passports, travellers from those countries can visit and stay in all EU countries for up to 90 days within a six-month period.

"It has resulted in an influx in 2010. You are not an asylum seeker until you apply for asylum," said Caroline Henjered, head of the division for asylum reception at the agency.

In addition, a similar flood from the western Balkans arrived in Sweden before becoming emergency asylum seekers.

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