Refugee crisis

Sweden to welcome first ‘relocated’ refugees

Sweden to welcome first 'relocated' refugees
Refugees activists gathered in Rome in June 2015. Photo: TT/AP/Andrew Medichini
A controversial programme to relocate 40,000 refugees within the EU from overstretched frontline states is set to formally start on Friday when a group of Eritreans will travel to Sweden from Italy.

“First relocations within EU take place on Friday,” following an agreement by interior ministers in September, the EU's home affairs office said in a tweet.

“Eritrean refugees will be relocated from Italy to Sweden.”

An EU source told the AFP news agency that a flight will leave Roma Ciampino airport in the morning and take the first refugees to Sweden.

EU Migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos is expected to give a press conference in Rome.

The number of refugees being moved on Friday was not revealed, but Sweden agreed on July 20th to take 821 refugees from Italy and 548 from Greece as part of the commission's plan to relocate 40,000 refugees from the two frontline states over two years.

The EU formally agreed the plan last month despite the opposition of some eastern European states worried about a popular backlash to migrants.

Until now, member states have only agreed to redistribute 32,000 people but are expected to make up the difference by the end of the year.

With the crisis worsening, the EU has agreed to relocate a further 120,000 after overriding opposition from the same eastern European states.

Last year Sweden took in more refugees per capita than any other EU country.

In 2015, more than 73,000 people have already applied for asylum in the Nordic nation.

This September alone, 24,306 people sought asylum in Sweden, a historically high figure that included 1,300 people on one single day.
While Sweden has a global reputation for helping refugees, but it has faced some internal criticism following complaints from asylum seekers about long waiting times and access to housing.
Prime Minister Stefan Löfven's Social Democrat-Green coalition has promised to increase funding for refugees in its autumn budget. It is also pushing to encourage municipalities across Sweden to accept more asylum seekers.

“We have seen a dramatic increase in the number of refugees seeking asylum. That's why I have told Migration Minister Morgan Johansson to urgently review what steps need to be taken,” Löfven told the TT newswire last month.

“People need to get roofs over their heads and the children have to start school,” he added.