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Parties duel as refugee costs rocket

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Parties duel as refugee costs rocket
Photos: TT
12:06 CEST+02:00
Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and opposition leader Stefan Löfven clashed on Wednesday after the Migration Board asked for more money to handle Sweden's influx of refugees.

Swedish media reported on Tuesday that the country is looking at record-breaking numbers of refugees this year, with one report predicting up to 100,000 displaced people resettling in Sweden. 

The Migration Board has announced that it cannot afford to handle the influx with its current budget, and has asked for 48 billion kronor ($6.9 billion) above the 91 billion ($13.2 billion) allowance the board has already been granted for the next four years.

"We need this decided quickly," Migration Board financial manager Annika Alenius told newspaper Expressen. "Time is of the essence. We need to recruit additional personnel immediately. Otherwise we risk increasing the price tag even further." 

In his summer speech this past weekend, Reinfeldt urged Swedes to "show tolerance and open their hearts" for asylum-seekers arriving in the country.

Later this week Fredrik Reinfeldt will meet with Finance Minister Anders Borg in his Harpsund summer residence to discuss Sweden's economic situation and the treasury's assessment for Sweden's 2015 budget.

About a quarter of the extra funds the Migration Board needs can be taken from the foreign aid budget, Liberal Party finance spokesman Carl B. Hamilton said.

"But the rest has to come from somewhere else." 

Expressen said on Wednesday that, according to its sources, the budget issues will be discussed at the meeting in Harpsund - and that the government's solutions involve more taxes. Among other changes, the proposal would involve limiting deduction rights for interest payments, as well as implementing a tax on commercial properties, Expressen said. 

Social Democrat leader Stefan Löfven blasted the prime minister for his Saturday speech.

"It was undignified of Reinfeldt to set the [Migration Board] costs against us being able to afford the future," Löfven told Expressen. "Increased costs for receiving refugees does not mean that we cannot afford to invest in our own welfare."

Löfven was unclear about how the budget issues could be addressed, but suggested that around half of the funding for the Migration Board could be offset against the development aid budget in accordance with international agreements on coping with large influxes of asylum seekers. 

He added that the government could work to lower costs of sick leave - which he says have risen significantly in recent years - and use that money for refugee reception as well.

The Alliance was critical of Löfven's ideas in turn.

"Löfven promises everything to everyone," Moderate party secretary Kent Persson remarked.

"We describe reality the way it really is. The Alliance stands for both taking responsibility for the economy and preserving our position as a humanitarian world power."

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