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Refugees to Sweden left in six-month limbo

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Refugees to Sweden left in six-month limbo
Sweden's migration officers face a huge workload. Photo: Maja Suslin/TT
07:00 CEST+02:00
UPDATED: Asylum seekers arriving in Sweden are now likely to face a wait of up to six-months before they can have their cases heard, as migration officers struggle to cope with the workload.

More than 80,000 asylum seekers have arrived in Sweden in the past year, fleeing conflicts and poverty in places like Syria and Eritrea. Most of them will have to wait half a year before the Migration Board (Migrationsverket) is able to start processing their application, according to Swedish Radio's news programme Ekot.

“If you arrived a year ago you got an asylum investigation in three weeks. Now it's six months,” Johanna Jerlehag of the Migration Board told Ekot.

Refugees who arrive in Sweden today, she says, are unlikely to even have their first conversation with an immigration officer until autumn. After that, they face a lengthy investigation process and another long wait for a decision.

“It is terrible that it takes so long. I do my best. We're all working overtime, we work on weekends and stay late in evenings,” said Jerlehag.

“I am dealing with around 200 cases, I investigate three to four people a week and if I'm lucky I have time to write up one to three rulings a week. All my colleagues are in exactly the same situation,” she added.

READ ALSO: The Local goes inside Sweden's largest immigration centre

Sweden welcomes more asylum seekers per capita than any other EU nation. Germany processed the greatest number in real terms: 247,635. By contrast, the United Kingdom dealt with 29,340, while the figure for the Netherlands was 23,780. 

In an interview with The Local on Thursday, Sweden's foreign minister Margot Wallström said she did not want to "name and shame" any countries, but added that "the figures are distributed very unevenly".

But while the Nordic country has long favoured imposing binding migrant quotas on EU member states, as proposed by the Commission last week, other countries have said they will do all in their power to fight them.

Last week, Sweden's justice and migration minister Morgan Johansson told The Local he backed the migrant sharing proposal.

“Our Common European Asylum System is not very common in a situation where a handful of Member States are taking the responsibility for over 90 percent of the asylum seekers,” he said.

“For the Common European Asylum System to be sustainable in the long run, a more even distribution of asylum seekers within the EU is needed.”

In the meantime, Sweden is continuing to prepare itself for new arrivals. 

Fifteen thousand more asylum places are expected to be needed in the Nordic country this year. To cope with an increasing flow of refugees, the Swedish Migration Board announced in March that it has more than tripled the maximum number of residents allowed at each asylum centre in the nation from 200 to 650.

EU leaders are set to discuss the quota proposals in Brussels when they meet on June 25th.

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