Number of asylum seekers to Sweden dropped sharply in 2016

Number of asylum seekers to Sweden dropped sharply in 2016
Police escort asylum seekers at Hyllie Station near Malmö in this file photo from 2015. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT
Following the introduction of border controls, an agreement with Turkey and tougher legislation, the flow of refugees to Sweden has reduced to a trickle.
2016 saw 80 per cent fewer asylum seekers arrive in Sweden compared with 2015, when almost 163,000 people applied for asylum in the country. 
This year's total is significantly lower.
For example, only 5,410 Syrian asylum seekers have come to Sweden so far in 2016, compared with 51,338 in 2015, according to figures from the Swedish migration authority (Migrationsverket).
Up to mid-December, the total for asylum seekers arriving in the country in 2016 had just rounded 28,000. 
According to Fredrik Bengtsson, press officer with Migrationsverket, the reduction in numbers is the result of a variation of factors at play in both Sweden and the EU.
“We have an agreement on refugees between Turkey and the EU, as well as significantly reduced abilities for asylum seekers to travel across European borders. In Sweden we have changed legislation such that Sweden is no longer considered an optimal destination in the same way. We no longer grant permanent residency and family reunification has been severely limited,” Bengtsson told news agency TT.
The biggest overall reduction was in the numbers of unaccompanied minors seeking asylum in Sweden. Around 2,100 unaccompanied under-18 year-olds applied for asylum this year, compared with 35,369 in 2015.
“Last year the absolute majority of unaccompanied minors were from Afghanistan, where they are usually without identity papers. This makes it difficult for them to reach Sweden as they will be stopped at various forms of ID checkpoints on the way,” said Bengtsson.
The press chief declined to comment on how the situation is likely to look this time next year, but told TT that this will depend upon developments with Swedish laws – but to a greater degree on decisions taken outside of the country.
Whether the agreement with Turkey, for example, or individual border controls continues will depend upon the actions of other [countries], Bengtsson said.
“But if we look at the amount of people that still need to flee from war, this has not changed. It is still great,” continued Bengtsson.