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Refugees in Sweden to get free bus passes

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Refugees in Sweden to get free bus passes
The initiative is a collaboration between the Swedish Migration Board, the County Council and Kalmar County Transport. Photo: TT
10:07 CEST+02:00
Refugees living in Kalmar in southern Sweden are to receive free bus passes valid for the whole county, as part of a unique venture to increase mobility and integration within the migrant community.

Launched by the Swedish Migration Board (Migrationsverket), the County Council and Kalmar County Transport (KLT), the new bus pass will be available to all asylum seekers living across the county.

According to the migration board, the initiative is designed to reduce isolation for those living far from larger communities in the county, such as in the asylum accommodation in Helgesbo, which is about 40km outside Kalmar.

“There are two parts to this. One part is that it is a big integration effort that we are doing. We hope that people's mobility will increase, that people can make more contacts in the community,” Lars Borgemo, unit manager at Högsby's immigration office told SVT.

“The other part is that people's mood will be better and you will avoid the isolation that can sometimes be in our accommodation.”

The move has been welcomed by migrants living in the county. 

“It means a lot to me. Now I can go from Helgesbo to Kalmar, Oskarshamn and Mönsterås whenever I want,” Syrian refugee Monzer Taha, who lives in the Migration Board's accommodation in Helgesbo, was quoted as saying by the broadcaster.

“I can use the bus pass when I want. I can go to Kalmar and meet and connect with new people or go and visit friends in Blomstermåla or anywhere,” fellow resident Samir Kabeh, also from Syria, said.

The initiative, which will last for a year, will cost 500,000 kronor per month ($58,691). An initial assessment will be made in October. 

Sweden currently receives the most refugees per capita in the EU. But a new prognosis by the Migration Board, revealed last week, brought the number of predicted asylum seekers down from the figure of 90,000 suggested in February to 74,000. 

Long waiting times and cumbersome bureaucracy are causing more and more migrants to avoid travelling to the Nordic country, said the board last Thursday.

As The Local reported earlier this year, asylum seekers arriving in Sweden are likely to face a wait of up to six months before they can have their case heard, as migration officers struggle to cope with the workload.

“The processing times are pretty long compared to Germany, which has a fast-track lane, and integration in Sweden. It is difficult to get housing and jobs; this affects people's choice of destination country,” Anders Danielsson, head of the Swedish Migration Board, told the TT newswire.

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