Refugee-shy towns hit out at new asylum bill

Refugee-shy towns hit out at new asylum bill
Swedish municipalities are set to be forced to welcome more asylum seekers following a new bill introduced by the Swedish Migration Board with some saying it will be difficult to find housing for the influx.

The bill, which comes into force next year, allows underage asylum seekers who come to Sweden without parents or guardians to reside in the country.

At present 50 Swedish municipalities don’t have an agreement with the Migration Board (Migrationsverket) and are scrambling to find a solution before the law comes into effect.

“They are forcing us to come up with solutions that don’t exist and those kind of solutions are never good,” said Agneta Bode, who chairs the social welfare board in the Arboga municipality, central Sweden, to the Swedish Radio Ekot programme.

Bode added that her municipality of 13,000 would struggle to cope with a refugee influx due to a housing shortage.

Under the new law the Migration Board gets to decide where the asylum seekers live. Municipalities who don’t presently have any refugees will host the first set of new arrivals and are unable to appeal the decision.

As well as providing housing the legislation means the municipalities are also responsible for the welcome ceremony for the new refugees and their general care.

The Swedish government covers the costs incurred by the municipalities with compensation pay outs.

Many municipalities are participating with the program such as Katrineholm, eastern Sweden, which has 33,000 total residents.

“The resistance to accept people coming from war and disasters increases when a municipality may take on too much responsibility,” said local government commissioner Göran Dahlström to the Ekot programme.

In 2005, Sweden received about 500 applications from underage asylum seekers. For 2013, the authorities estimate that they will process 4,000 cases in total.

When the bill was proposed in May, Sweden’s Migration Minister Tobias Billström said it was to speed up the waiting process for children.

“There are quite simply too many children that have to wait too long to get a place, because there aren’t enough places in the system,”he told the TT news agency.

“That’s because too few municipalities have offered places to the Migration Board (Migrationsverket),” Billström added.

A spokesperson for Migrationsverket told Ekot that each municipality will likely be expected to welcome around 10 underage asylum seekers starting with the 50 municipalities who have to reach an agreement with the Migration Board.

“A bit into next year children will be assigned to virtually all of the municipalities in Sweden,” said Ronny Magnusson.

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