Sweden triples maximum limit at asylum centres

Fifteen thousand more asylum places are expected to be needed in Sweden this year. To cope with an increasing flow of refugees, the Swedish Migration Board has more than tripled the maximum number of residents allowed at asylum centres from 200 to 650, Swedish Radio reported on Monday.

Sweden triples maximum limit at asylum centres
An asylum centre near Skara, Sweden. Photo: Magnus Hjalmarson Neideman/SvD/TT

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“Necessity knows no law,” Mikael Ribbenvik, operative head at the Migration Board told Swedish Radio.

“We don't get enough places and we will not leave anyone stranded on the street. When we have looked for housing in the last three years we have looked for small centres, because we don't believe in larger ones. Collective housing is worse than your own home and the bigger it is the worse it gets,” he said.

Sweden became the first European country in 2013 to grant automatic residency to Syrian refugees and has since seen asylum requests rise to record levels, which are still expected to reach about 90,000 in 2015.

According to the Swedish Migration Board's latest prognosis, 15,000 more asylum places will need to be created in the coming year.

Previously no more than 200 asylum seekers were permitted to stay in one centre. But under the new rules, the Migration Board can sign a basic contract for 350 places, including two supplementary agreements of 150 places each after the first ones have been filled.

Ali Salom, who lives at an asylum centre for 120 people in the Västmanland region in central Sweden, warned larger centres could put people at risk.

“It is crowded and very many people are depressed. The mood is tense and people can start a fight over anything at all, people can fight over a spoon,” he told Swedish Radio.

But Ribbenvik added that it is not the Migration Board's responsibility to request more staff at the centres.

“As far as criminality and protecting the citizens are concerned, it's the police. When it comes to psychological and physical well being, it's the county. You can't believe that everything that happens in society is the Migration Board's responsibility,” he told Swedish Radio.

Sweden receives the highest number of refugees per capita in the EU and is second only to Germany as a destination for Syrians fleeing the Middle Eastern country's civil war.
While the country's liberal attitude to accepting refugees has been praised by the UN, which has asked other European member states to share the burden with the Nordic nation, the country’s integration policies are in the spotlight.

Earlier this month it emerged that half of asylum seekers who were given residency in Sweden ten years ago and remained in the country were earning less than 13,000 kronor ($1570) a month. The average median wage in Sweden is 23,700 kronor a month ($2861).