Sweden’s score of 83 gave it the highest rank among countries included in the study. Portugal ranked second with a score of 79, followed by Canada (72).
Neighbouring Finland claimed the number 4 spot (69), with Norway coming in seventh (66) and Denmark trailing its Scandinavian neighbours in 14th place (53).
According to the index, derived from an analysis of 148 different factors, Swedish integration policies offer favourable conditions for migrants to participate in society, including finding employment.
Also highlighted as strengths were Swedish laws pertaining to family reunification and anti-discrimination, while laws related to housing, education, political participation and citizenship were considered no less advantageous.
Henrik Nilsson, a start-up coordinator and member of the Red Cross, Sweden’s national partner to the study, attributed much of Sweden’s high ranking to the right mix of policies and willing volunteers.
“Sweden’s first place shows that good forces can combine to produce results. We have a Parliament that passes laws giving newcomers the right to instruction in Swedish…and thousands of volunteers who support new arrivals when they enter into Swedish society,” Nilsson said in a statement.
“At the same time there is much we can do better in the practical work at the local, regional and national level in terms, such as health.”
The long-term study, known at MIPEX, puts Sweden’s ability to deal with the challenges of integration above efforts in place in all other European Union (EU) member states, Norway, Switzerland, Canada and the US.
A collaborative effort between the British Council, the Migration Policy Group and national partners, the MIPEX study compares and contrasts integration policies across 31 countries in Europe and North America, surveying what various governments are doing to promote integration of immigrants and refugees with residence permits.
For the purposes of the study, immigrants are defined as non-EU nationals who enter their countries of destination legally. Asylum seekers, refugees, the undocumented, and intra-EU migrants and people will immigrant backgrounds who haven’t themselves immigrated are therefore not included in the analysis.
MIPEX also benchmarks whether governments grant equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities for all residents according to international standards agreed upon by EU member states.
“While change is happening at a very slow pace, there are still many obstacles to how immigrants live, work and participate in our societies,” the British Council said in a statement.
The findings revealed that great disparities exist in how Europe is integrating its 20 million immigrants who legally reside in the region.
“Most countries are creating as many opportunities as obstacles for immigrants to become equal members of society,” the British independent government agency said in the same statement.