“Those who have been denied entry or received deportation orders should leave the country,” Reinfeldt told Svergies Television (SVT) on Sunday.
“Should people be allowed to stay simply because they go into hiding for a few weeks? That would be a very strange society.”
The prime minister’s comments come in response to an ongoing debate in Sweden about law enforcement’s approach to carrying out deportation orders.
Critics have accused police in Stockholm of racial profiling in asking “non-Swedish looking” commuters for identification. Others have questioned whether police should be prioritizing deportation order enforcement over traditional law enforcement operations.
While police announced earlier in March that they had abandoned random ID-checks, thousands took to the streets to protest the initiative, known as the Reva project, which stands for Rättssäkert och effektivt verkställighetsarbete (‘Legal and effective execution of policy’).
The debate gained new life last week when Swedish author Jonas Hassen Khemiri published an open letter in the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper challenging Justice Minister Beatrice Ask to “change skin” with him.
The article generated was widely shared on social media and prompted many to share their experiences of being victimized by what Khemiri referred to as Sweden’s “structural racism”.
When asked about the article, Reinfeldt refused to comment specifically on the controversial methods other than to point out that police have said the tactics are no longer in use.
“I’m not here to discuss matters related to police operations, I’m responsible more for making laws,” he said.
Reinfeldt added, however, that since 2009 the government has pushed immigration and law enforcement authorities in Sweden to do a better job of enforcing deportation orders.
According to the prime minister, no party in the Riksdag is currently in favour of open borders, although the proposal has been discussed recently within the Centre Party.
“I want to be clear that I’ve told the police that in Sweden, everyone is equal before the law,” he said, adding he sees no reason to change Sweden’s laws.
“If you’ve been rejected in a country with the most generous asylum and migration rules in the entire developed world, I think you should respect the decision,” Reinfeldt said.