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IMMIGRATION

Sweden sets immigration record in 2012

Sweden issued a record number of residence permits in 2012, with the total tally ending up at 110,000, a 19-percent hike from 2011 with refugees accounting for the bulk of the increase, statistics from the Swedish Migration Board (Migrationsverket) show.

Sweden sets immigration record in 2012

As a group, people in need of protection (skyddsbehövande) saw the biggest increase, with 37 percent more applications being approved in 2012 compared to 2011.

Almost 4,600 people arrived in Sweden per month in the latter part of year, accelerated in large part by the civil war in Syria.

There were more than 7,000 applications from Syrians, of which about 5,000 were granted.

In total, Syrians stood for 18 percent of all applications, with Somalis and Afghans at 13 and 11 percent respectively. They together formed the majority of asylum seekers to Sweden.

Migration Board head Anders Danielsson thinks the authorities still manage to treat all applications fairly.

“But our resources are under a lot of pressure,” he told the TT news agency.

The authorities sped up the time it took to process applications for unaccompanied minors who sought asylum (ensamkommande flyktingbarn). It now takes on average 108 instead of 149 days to get a decision.

Afghanistan is the country of origin of most of the unaccompanied minors, although the authorities noted a rise in young migrants from previously less-represented countries such as Algeria, Morocco, Uganda and Syria.

Almost 3,600 children and teens sought asylum in 2012, a 35-percent increase from the year before.

Sweden grants residence to the highest number of underage asylum seekers in Europe.

The Swedish authorities also noted a rise of applications from the Western Balkan nations. Serbia stood for more than half, trailed by Bosnia & Herzegovina and Albania, with migrants leaving for “socio-economic reasons”, the Migration Board noted.

The total number of asylum applications clocks in at 44,000. In comparison, Germany went through 64,000 asylum applications in 2012 while France processed 60,000.

People coming to Sweden to join relatives made up the biggest group of new residents – 41,000 applications were granted, up by 27 percent from the previous year.

A court decision from the Migration Court in January 2012 also set a legal precedent and opened the door for more relatives to join their families. It affected mostly the Swedish-Somali community but migrants from Thailand, Iraq and Serbia also dominated the applications.

About 8,000 people were granted residency permits because a member of their family was either an asylum seeker or needed special protection. The majority were Somalis.

Family members joining people who work in Sweden increased to 9,700 from 8,200 the year before. India, Syria and China were highly represented in the statistics.

And about 17,000 working permits were granted to citizens of non-EU countries.

The Migration Board noted that IT workers from India and China were the second biggest group, trumped only by seasonal berrypickers from Thailand.

From outside the EU, 7,000 new foreign students arrived in Sweden in 2012, almost half compared to two years ago because of the introduction of university fees for non-EU students, the Migration Board noted.

Chinese students are the most numerous, followed by Turkey, the US, Australia, and India.

EU students instead increased by 68 percent to 3,500 students, most of them from Germany, France and Spain.

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2022 SWEDISH ELECTION

OPINION: The far right now dominates the immigration debate in Sweden

A televised debate between the party leaders last weekend showed how Sweden’s third party, the far-right Sweden Democrats, has shaped Swedish politics since the last elections four years ago, argues David Crouch

OPINION: The far right now dominates the immigration debate in Sweden

In the build-up to the 2018 elections, the world’s media descended on Stockholm, expecting a breakthrough by the Sweden Democrats (SD) who had been polling as high as 25 percent. In the end, SD took third place with around 18 percent of the vote.

Four years later, SD are hovering at around the same level in the polls. However, Swedish politics has been utterly transformed, as the other main parties have moved onto political terrain previously occupied by SD.

This would have been unthinkable just a few short years ago. When they first entered parliament, SD were treated as political pariahs, a racist party, held at arm’s length by the other parties who refused to cooperate with them in any way.

Attempts to bring the SD into the mainstream of Swedish politics fell flat. The leader of the centre-right Moderates lost her job after suggesting it was “time to stop demonising” the SD. Her replacement, Ulf Kristersson, said he would neither negotiate nor govern with them. After the elections, two smaller centre-right parties – the Centre and the Liberals – agreed to prop up the coalition of Social Democrats and Greens to prevent the SD gaining any influence in parliament.

It was clear, however, that the only chance for the centre-right to govern would be with SD support. After all, in Finland and Norway right-wing populist parties had entered government with the centre right. And in Denmark, the centre-right had governed with populist support. If it worked there, why not in Sweden?

In early 2019, the SD leader Jimmie Åkesson famously had meatballs for lunch with Ebba Busch, the leader of the tiny Christian Democrats, who acted as a bridge-builder. A few months later, Kristersson met the SD leader for the first time in his Stockholm office. By early 2021 the cordon sanitaire dividing the parties had been truly dismantled, and in the autumn the three parties presented a joint budget.

Meanwhile, the Moderates stepped up their rhetoric against immigration and crime. But perhaps the influence has worked both ways? Maybe the far-right have toned down their policies, compromising with the centre so the parties can work together?

On the contrary, Åkesson and other leading SD figures have stoked up the fire and brimstone in their anti-immigrant message. For the SD, the problem is dark-skinned immigrants from Muslim countries whose values conflict with Sweden’s and who should therefore be deported.

The response among the Moderates – and also the governing Social Democrats – has been a deafening silence.

After the Easter riots in six Swedish cities, the Social Democrat government proposed a package of coercive measures to help the police and social services crackdown on criminals.

A televised debate between the party leaders last weekend brought this out very clearly. More than that, it showed how the Sweden Democrats have shaped Swedish politics since the country last voted four years ago.

In the debate on Sunday, prime minister Magdalena Andersson talked about being tough on crime and boasted that Sweden now has one of the strictest immigration regimes in Europe.

It was left to the Green Party (polling 4 percent) and the Centre Party (6 percent) to challenge the SD on immigration. They pointed out that the violent minority is tiny, and that tens of thousands of recent immigrants hold down jobs, obey the law and contribute to Swedish society.

Centre Party leader Annie Lööf listed some of the SD’s more extreme proposals, including demolition of high-immigration neighbourhoods, dawn raids on refugees, and collective punishment for crimes committed by a single family member. This was “pure racism”, Lööf said – where were the “red lines”, beyond which the centre-right would turn against the SD?

All the parties agree that segregation along ethnic lines has gone too far in Sweden, that integration efforts have failed and that something must be done. But there is a paucity of bold ideas that could really make a difference.

Immigration will once more be a battleground at the elections in September, with key politicians competing to be the toughest in dealing with unruly “foreigners”. Meanwhile, the underlying problems that have fuelled disaffection among people with immigrant backgrounds are unlikely to be addressed.

A few weeks ago, Swedish journalist Janne Josefsson spoke to Ahmed, one of the stone-throwing youngsters who shocked the country at Easter.

“We are second class citizens. You let us in, but then Sweden doesn’t care about us,” Ahmed told him. “We are trapped here. I have studied, but will never get a good job. At least once a week we are stopped by the police. In the end, you feel hunted, like a quarry. Do you understand?”

It seems that Swedish politicians don’t really want to.

David Crouch is the author of Almost Perfekt: How Sweden Works and What Can We Learn From It. He is a freelance journalist and a lecturer in journalism at Gothenburg University.

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