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New plan to ease refugee housing problems

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07:58 CEST+02:00
The government wants to overhaul how it rewards municipalities that help refugees find housing quickly in an effort to hasten the process of acclimating to life in Sweden.

Even after refugees are granted asylum and receive Swedish resident permits, many opt to stay in refugee housing centres run by the Migration Board (Migrationsverket) because of difficulties finding housing elsewhere.

"Today one of the problems with the establishment process is that it takes too long for newly-arrived refugees to find a place to live," integration minister Erik Ullenhag said in a statement.

Currently, any of Sweden's 290 municipalities that opt to accept refugees qualifies for an annual bonus of 440,000 kronor ($66,500).

However, the funds are paid out regardless of what steps a municipality says it will take to help refugees adjust to life in their new home.

"It takes too long to get housing in the municipalities. That's a huge problem. That means that integration efforts like learning Swedish and efforts by the Public Employment Service (Arbetsförmedlingen) don't get started," Ullenhag told Sveriges Radio (SR).

"It's also a problem that people who seek asylum are housed together with people who've received residence permits. That's not good from an integration perspective."

In an effort to boost the capacity of municipalities to accept refugees, the government now wants to replace the current lump-sum payments with a performance-based system.

Specifically, the government will offer municipalities funds to cover rental costs that will allow them to keep apartments available in anticipation of the arrival of new refugees.

Ullenhag explained that municipalities could receive up to 12,000 kronor per family to cover rental costs associated with making housing available for newly arrived refugees.

"We hope that the measures now being presented can contribute to a faster and better reception in the municipalities," said Ullenhag.

Speaking with SR, the minister claimed that municipalities that do a particular good job of quickly finding housing for refugees could receive "more than one million kronor".

The measure is expected to cost the government an additional 250 million kronor per year starting in 2014, as well as an addition 15 million kronor per year to cover extra rental costs starting in 2013, according to the broadcaster.

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