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Migration proposal: Make Sweden’s temporary law permanent

A Swedish parliament committee set up to work out a new migration policy for Sweden is expected to present a proposal that would more or less suggest making the current temporary law permanent.

Migration proposal: Make Sweden's temporary law permanent
Sweden's current temporary migration law is set to run out next year. Photo: Marcus Ericsson/TT

Swedish public radio news show Ekot reports that the proposal has been shared with the members of the Migration Committee and would in essence mean sticking with the stricter migration policy from post-2016.

The current temporary law, which was introduced back in 2016 after Sweden received record numbers of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers during the crisis of the autumn before, is set to run out next summer. The goal is to replace it with a permanent policy before it expires.

Swedish decision-makers have argued that the country cannot return to a similar situation, despite immigration numbers having dropped radically in the years since due to a series of harsher rules.

All Sweden's major parties agree that migration law needs an overhaul, although many of them disagree on exactly what needs to change and how strict or lenient it should be. Last year the Migration Committee was set up, with representatives form all eight parliamentary parties, to explore how this should be done.

But talks broke down in July after the Green Party threatened to quit the government when its Social Democrat partners looked increasingly likely to accept the conservative opposition party's bid for a 'volume target' (a cap on the number of asylum seekers who can enter Sweden each year). In the end, the Social Democrats did not side with the Moderates' proposal which meant the bid did not have majority support.

Instead, the Migration Committee, which is made up of experts and secretaries in addition to political representatives, has had to come up with a proposal that would be able to get support in parliament.

But the centre-left Social Democrats were the only ones who appeared happy on Tuesday morning.

“I think it is overall a good proposal. It's mainly those parts that touch on how long your residence permit should be and what rules should apply in order to get a permanent residence permit, the rules on family reunification for example,” Rikard Larsson, the Social Democrats' representative, told Ekot.

Prime Minister Stefan Löfven (Social Democrats) and Deputy Prime Minister Isabella Lövin (Greens). Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

One feature of the temporary migration law of 2016 was that asylum seekers received temporary residence permits by default, whereas previously permanent residence permits were the norm. 

And people (not just those who arrived as asylum seekers, but also Swedish citizens and residents) bringing their partners or other family members to live in Sweden had to meet certain requirements around income levels and household size. However, Swedish media reported last month that the parties on the committee had agreed in principle on certain exceptions for Swedish or EU/EEA citizens.

In any case, this is an important piece of legislation which will affect many people who want or need to move to Sweden in future, as well as people currently resident.

What happens next?

The members of the committee will now comment on the proposal, which hasn't yet been published in full. The committee will then, by August 15th at the latest, hand over the full report including any dissenting opinions (the Green Party has already criticised it, telling Ekot the policy is “inhumane”).

The next step would normally be that the government sends a potential bill out for a consultation round, after which it may decide to put it to parliament for a vote. Only after that would there be a law change.

However, since the Green Party opposes many of the proposals in the report, its representative told the TT news agency that it would want fresh negotiations between the Social Democrats as well as the Centre and Liberal parties (the four parties behind the January Agreement) before a bill is submitted to parliament.

The Local will keep reporting on the new proposals, and other issues that affect immigrants in Sweden, as soon as we know more. You can always contact our editorial team on [email protected] – we receive a lot of emails and may not be able to reply to all, but we read every single one. Your questions, thoughts and feedback help guide our editorial coverage on the issues that matter to international residents in Sweden.

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SWEDEN ELECTS

Sweden Elects: How powerful are the Sweden Democrats now?

The Local's editor Emma Löfgren explains how Sweden's parliamentary committees work – and the role the Sweden Democrats will play in them.

Sweden Elects: How powerful are the Sweden Democrats now?

Hej,

The speaker of parliament has given Ulf Kristersson, leader of the conservative Moderates and the likely next prime minister of Sweden, October 12th as a deadline to conclude his government negotiations.

If Kristersson comes up with a viable proposal for a ruling coalition, the speaker will put that proposal to parliament within four days. Chances are Sweden will have its new right-wing government by mid-October.

What will that government look like? Most likely, it will consist of at least the Moderates and the Christian Democrats. Rumours have it Kristersson is hoping to bring the Liberals into the governmental fold, and it is unlikely that the far-right Sweden Democrats will be part of the government.

But anyone who thinks the latter means they will be left on the sidelines is mistaken. They will have demanded significant concessions in order to support Kristersson’s government (and especially to make way for the Liberals) from parliament, and judging from recent news, they got them.

In a joint press release last week, the right wing – the Moderates, Christian Democrats, Liberals and Sweden Democrats – said they had reached a deal on how to share responsibility for their parliamentary committees.

There are 15 committees in the Swedish parliament, seats on which are held by members of parliament, with larger parties getting more seats as well as more high-ranking roles such as chair and deputy chair.

The right wing is after this election entitled to 16 chair and deputy chair roles, and the Sweden Democrats will get half of those, the parties agreed. The key thing that many political pundits were keeping an eye on was which committees, as that tells us a lot about how far they got in their negotiations with the other right-wing parties. The answer: far.

The Sweden Democrats will get to chair the Justice, Foreign Affairs, Labour Market, and Industry and Trade Committees – all heavyweight committees. 

Their most high-profile appointment is Richard Jomshof, one of the most senior Sweden Democrats who in the run-up to the election gave an anti-Islam speech (not the first time). He will chair the Justice Committee.

The Moderates will chair the Finance and Social Insurance Committees (plus the EU Committee), the Christian Democrats will chair the Health and Welfare Committee, and the Liberals will chair the Education Committee.

On the other side, the left-wing parties will get to chair the Defence, Taxation, Constitution, Civil Affairs, Transport and Communications, Environment and Agriculture, and Cultural Affairs Committees.

So what exactly do the parliamentary committees do, and how much influence will the Sweden Democrats now have over legislation?

The votes of every member of the committees count equally (there are at least 15 members on every committee, representing the various parties from left to right), and the chair gets the final vote if there’s a tie. He or she also has influence over the committee’s agenda and over how meetings are directed, with the position also bringing prestige.

All government bills and proposals by members of parliament first go through one of the committees before they can be put to the main chamber for a vote. The committee adopts a position on the proposal and although the final decision rests with the 349 members of the main chamber, they usually vote for the committee’s position since the make-up of their members represent the parties in parliament.

Although chair positions give them a procedural advantage, the Sweden Democrats won’t have unlimited power over their committees, since as I said, the other parties have seats too and their votes count equally.

The main benefit for the Sweden Democrats is rather the soft power it gives them. The chair is the face of the parliamentary committee, and these senior roles will force the other parties to take them seriously.

Another aspect to bear in mind is that they’ll have enough seats on each committee that they will have a key kingmaker role where they can side either with the government or the opposition – giving them fairly significant negotiating power when it comes to future legislation.

In other news, the Swedish parliament last week re-elected the popular Andreas Norlén as speaker, it’s been taking much longer than usual to get a work permit (here’s why) and foreigners are calling for the Migration Agency to issue special visas to allow those affected by renewal delays to leave Sweden and return, the Nord Stream 2 pipeline has stopped leaking gas, and households in Sweden are starting to feel the economic squeeze.

In the latest episode of our Sweden in Focus podcast, host Paul O’Mahony is joined by Handelsbanken chief economist Johan Löf, as well as The Local’s Becky Waterton, Richard Orange and James Savage.

Many thanks to everyone who’s got in touch lately with your thoughts and feedback about Sweden Elects. I’m happy it’s useful to you. If you have any questions about Swedish politics, you’re always welcome to get in touch.

Best wishes,

Emma

Sweden Elects is a weekly column by Editor Emma Löfgren looking at the big talking points and issues in the Swedish election race. Members of The Local Sweden can sign up to receive the column as a newsletter in their email inbox each week. Just click on this “newsletters” option or visit the menu bar.

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