A refugee waiting outside the Swedish Migration Agency's accommodation centre in Malmö on Friday. Photo: Anna Karolina Eriksson / TT
The Swedish Migration Agency on Friday left newly arrived refugees to sleep outside in the cold for the second night running, although religious and civil organisations eventually stepped in.
As many 25 refugees were last night camped out on the steps of a converted Malmö hotel used by the Swedish Migration Agency to house new arrivals, the doors barred in front of them, as temperatures dropped below freezing.
“We are tired and cold,” one told the local Kvällsposten newspaper. “We have talked to so many journalists already, but it doesn’t seen to do us any good.”
According Sweden’s TT newswire eventually someone took pity on the group and drove them to the city’s main mosque for the night.
"Yesterday was a tough day in the Migration Agency's history," Tobias Åkerman, the agency's communication manager for southern Sweden, told The Local. "For the first time, we had to deny asylum seekers shelter in our accommodation."
He said that from now men would arrive in Sweden alone without their families would be asked to arrange their own accommodation.
"In this situation, we are forced to tough priorities," he said. "We will give priority to families with children when accommodations are available in the housing system."
Yelda Azimi, an Afghan who has already spent three years in Sweden, on Friday night told Kvällsposten she could not understand the authorities’ failure to help to refugees bedded down outside.
“Why is it only Afghans who sleep here? I do not understand it,” she said. “I’m really sad and worried. When I came here, it was all very nice for me, but now. Why does Sweden do this to them now?”
Malmö NGO Kontrapunkt said that it independently housed more than 130 refugees on Friday night,
On Saturday night, Malmö’s St John’s Church (Johanneskyrkan) also plans to open its doors.
“We can not see people staying out in this cold in the town,” said Per Kristiansson, the local priest coordinating refugee aid.
“The Gospel tomorrow is about just that. It was a coincidence that it was precisely this weekend,” he added. “I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me water. I was a stranger, and you opened your home to me.”
Friday was the second night in a row the agency did not manage to put a roof over the head of some newly arriving refugees.
On Thursday night as many as 30 spent the night outdoors after 600 arrived in just three hours.
“We have entered a new phase where the Migration Agency cannot provide shelter for all," chief operating officer Michael Ribbenvik, said in a statement on Thursday evening, announcing that the agency could no longer guarantee accommodation. "There are not enough places.”