The new migration policy promises to stop those who have had their applications rejected from receiving any social support in Sweden, and even goes so far as to ban their children from attending schools.
Immigration minister Helene Fritzon said at a press conference that Sweden should be taking in around 14,000 to 15,000 asylum seekers, much fewer than the 27,000 who came to the country in 2017, although she said she did not want to give an exact target.
“Even if the number of asylum seekers has dropped significantly in Sweden, it is significantly higher than [what it should be given] our population share in Europe,” Fritzon said, according to Expressen. “Not quite double, but close to it.”
The proposed policy, called “A Safe Migration Policy for a New Time,” includes tough new measures to reduce the number of asylum seekers in the country.
It vows to make the current temporary restrictive asylum rules voted through in 2016 permanent until the EU agrees on new rules.
It promises to further strengthen ID controls, increase the number of places in secure asylum facilities, and limit the ability of those given asylum to choose where they live.
It is particularly harsh on those who have had applications rejected, doubling the time they need to wait before making a new application, and banning them from ever returning if they do not leave Sweden voluntarily.
Local municipalities will also be stopped from giving rejected asylum seekers social support. Asked by the TT agency if this included stopping children from attending school Prime Minister Stefan Löfven said:
“No, exactly. First and foremost you are to return. Then exactly what happens in each situation, if it takes a long time to return, that's a different thing. But the principle has to be that yes is yes and no is no. If you have no right to be in Sweden, then you cannot benefit from Swedish welfare,” TT quoted him as saying.
However, Fritzon later said on Facebook that not allowing children to attend school was not part of the proposal.
Earlier in the day, Löfven said in a press conference that the 2015 refugee crisis, when a record 163,000 people applied for asylum, had shown that Swedish migration policy needed to be reformed.
“It became particularly clear after the autumn of 2015 that Sweden's migration policy was not sustainable,” he said.
“That only a few EU countries took their part in the responsibility during the refugee crisis was a major blow, and shows clearly the importance of a common system with a functioning regulatory framework.”
The unexpectedly harsh election pledges drew a strong reaction from the Green Party, the Social Democrats' coalition partners in the government.
“It's no secret that it is we who have been standing up for humanism at the negotiating table,” Maria Ferm, the party's migration spokeswoman told Expressen.
Johan Forssell, immigration spokesman for the opposition Moderate Party, asked how the Social Democrats could claim to have a restrictive policy when they have just announced an amnesty giving temporary residency rights to 9,000 former unaccompanied minors who have had their applications rejected.
The Social Democrats, and other parties, have sharpened their rhetoric on immigration in recent months, in an attempt to claw back votes from the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats ahead of the September election. Last month Löfven vowed to tighten rules for labour immigrants coming to Sweden to work.