Sweden could be lifted from EU refugee duties

Sweden could be excluded from a controversial EU refugee relocation scheme as the country battles to cope with the strain of processing record numbers of asylum seekers.

Sweden could be lifted from EU refugee duties
Refugees arriving in Malmö in November. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

The European Commission proposed on Tuesday to grant Sweden a one-year suspension from the member states' refugee redistribution quotas “in view of the unique strain on its capacities created by the sharp increase in applications for international protection”.

“Our Swedish friends are in a unique situation and we must take into account the exceptional increase in asylum applications that they are facing (…) to allow its asylum and reception system to recover from the exceptional burden it is under,” said EU migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos in a statement.

Sweden previously agreed to take around 5,800 people as part of the EU's scheme to divide 160,000 asylum seekers arriving in Italy and Greece between member states, but later expressed concerns that it was struggling to provide enough accommodation for new arrivals.

Only 180 people have so far been relocated via the EU's project, which kicked off with 19 Eritrean refugees being taken to northern Sweden earlier this year.

Tuesday's proposal did not comment on a request from the Sweden's centre-left coalition government that the EU also help relocate some of the Nordic country's asylum seekers to other member states, to help share the burden.

“We say that not just Greece and Italy should be part of this redistribution scheme, but Sweden as well,” Prime Minister Stefan Löfven told the TT news agency in October.

READ ALSO: Swedish PM 'confident' of refugee opportunities

Sweden has been taking in the most refugees per capita in the EU. But there has been a nationwide dip in the number of people claiming asylum in recent weeks, following tighter border checks and a government announcement that it would cut the number of residency permits made available.

While in October around 10,000 people were registered in a week, Migrationsverket statistics suggest that 4,721 people sought asylum across Sweden during the first seven days of December.