Reforms complicate refugee housing crunch

A mismatch between available jobs and housing in Sweden has resulted in increasing numbers of refugees remaining in Migration Board-run housing centres, forcing new asylum seekers to live in youth hostels and campgrounds.

Many asylum seekers who have been granted Swedish residence permits are unable to leave the special housing centres operated by the Migration Board (Migrationsverket) due to last year’s establishment reform, a change in policy aimed at helping immigrants establish themselves in new communities, Sveriges Radio (SR) reported.

The growing numbers have forced the agency to house newly arrived asylum seekers at campgrounds and hostels due to lack of space.

When the establishment reform went into effect about a year ago, it called for every refugee granted residency to be offered the chance to develop a job search plan with the help from local authorities.

Sweden’s Public Employment Service (Arbetsförmedling) became responsible for helping the new arrivals find jobs in a given region, and for enrolling them in language classes and helping them integrate into the local community.

New arrivals would also receive ‘establishment money’ for participating in the programme.

However, many of the refugee housing areas are located in regions jobs are scarce and the local employment offices have not been able to keep up with the number of new residents to whom the establishment reform applies.

Moreover, newly arrived immigrants are unable to relocate to other regions in Sweden where they might stand a better chance of getting a job, without risking violating the establishment reform rules.

Today 2,600 people with residency permits are nevertheless still living in refugee housing centres, compared to 1,000 last year the Migration Board told SR.

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