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Human rights chief 'concerned' about Sweden's asylum laws

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Human rights chief 'concerned' about Sweden's asylum laws
People protesting the deportation of a group of asylum seekers from Åstorp, Sweden, in 2017. Photo: Emil Langvad/TT
07:27 CET+01:00
The Council of Europe's rights commissioner has urged Sweden to reverse restrictions imposed on asylum seekers when it reviews its temporary law in 2018.

While commending Sweden's efforts to help asylum seekers and refugees, particularly at the peak of arrivals in 2015, the Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muiznieks said in a report he was "concerned at the restrictions introduced".

Sweden has registered around 400,000 asylum requests since 2012, or one for every 25 inhabitants, a record in Europe.

Asylum applications, a third of which were from Syrians, hit a peak of 163,000 in 2015.

But to stem the influx of people and ease the strain on accommodation centres, migration offices and social affairs, Sweden in January 2016 reintroduced systematic identity checks on its border with Denmark, as well as a series of restrictions aimed at deterring other migrants.

READ ALSO: Police chief slams Sweden's asylum laws in viral Facebook post

Muiznieks said he was "notably concerned at the impact" of an amended law that enables Swedish authorities to deprive rejected asylum seekers – who have no children with them and must leave the country – of accommodation, allowance and subsidized medical care.

He also expressed worries over restrictions on the right to family reunifications.

"The Commissioner urges the Swedish authorities to ensure that refugees and other beneficiaries of international protection fully enjoy their right to family reunification and expresses the hope that the restrictions to the right to family reunification in particular will be lifted on the occasion of the mid-review of the temporary law in 2018," the 29-page report said.

'Benefit of the doubt'

In 2015, one in five asylum seekers applied as unaccompanied minors, many of whom where from Afghanistan.

To determine the age of young applicants arriving without identification papers, the Swedish Migration Agency has since May 2017 introduced voluntary dental X-rays and magnetic resonance imaging of the knee joints.

READ ALSO: 24 hours on Stockholm's streets with refugee protesters

Muiznieks called on Swedish authorities "not to rely only on a medical assessment of age" and "to ensure that minors are always given the benefit of the doubt where there is uncertainty as to their age".

The commissioner cited a report by the UN Committee on the Right of the Child which found such medical exams had "wide margins of error".

Meanwhile, the report noted Sweden was "close to achieving its commitment" of taking in 3,766 migrants in 2017 under relocation quotas set between EU member states.

The country has also promised to welcome 5,000 migrants this year under the EU quota.

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