“Today Sweden is one of the countries that receives the most immigrants in
the EU. That’s not sustainable,” Tobias Billström told the Saturday edition
of the Dagens Nyheter newspaper.
The minister’s Moderate Party, a conservative group and the largest member of Sweden’s centre-right coalition government, has tasked Billström with looking at ways to lower the “volumes” of immigrants entering the Scandinavian country, he said.
The party wants the country’s immigration policy to remain “humane,” he added.
Some of those applying for residency are covered by Sweden’s maintenance requirement, which says applicants must be able to support themselves and have a home to be eligible.
But Billström claimed the policy only covered one percent of those applying for visas on family reunification grounds.
“Today, people are coming to households where the only income is support from the municipality. Is that reasonable?” he said.
The anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats said in a statement it welcomed Billström’s “awakening.”
“One thing is clear, the Sweden Democrats are influencing the debate in the right direction,” it said.
The Sweden Democrats entered parliament in 2010 after winning 5.7 percent of the vote, and polls currently put its support at just under 10 percent.
The number of residence permits issued by Sweden rose to an all-time high last year, with refugees accounting for most of the 19 percent rise.
In total, Sweden received just under 44,000 asylum applications in 2012.
Only two European countries received more: France (60,000) and Germany (64,000), according to the Swedish Migration Board.
The number of Syrians seeking asylum rose 12-fold, and the agency said in December it expected to receive up to 18,000 Syrians this year.