Swedish committee presents proposals for new migration laws

Swedish committee presents proposals for new migration laws
Sweden received more than 160,000 asylum applications in 2015, but only 22,000 last year. Photo: Marcus Ericsson/TT
UPDATED: A parliamentary committee set up to review Swedish migration policy suggests a series of legislative changes in a new 600-page report, including making language skills a requirement for permanent residence permits.

It is not as comprehensive as originally intended, but the committee's final report, released on Tuesday, is still more than 600 pages and contains a series of proposals regarding amendments to Swedish migration law.

These include introducing language requirements for permanent residence permits, and that first-time residence permits should as a rule of thumb be temporary rather than permanent. Those who are granted refugee protection should be given three-year residence permits, and people receiving protection on other grounds should be given permits of 13 months. It would be possible to apply for an extension when the permits run out.

Sweden set up the Migration Committee with representatives from each party last year, with the aim of creating a comprehensive new law that could replace the current temporary law – which tightened rules for immigrants when it was introduced in 2016 – when it expires next summer.

But after talks broke down in July, the committee – which is also made up of experts and secretaries in addition to political representatives – had to shelve plans for a wide-reaching policy. Instead, it has presented a series of smaller proposals which are each supported by various political parties.

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The committee's proposal is more or less to make the current temporary law permanent, as The Local has previously reported, which would mean sticking with the stricter post-2016 policy.

But some important differences include language and civics requirements for permanent residence permits, with the exception of children and people entitled to a Swedish national pension or guarantee pension. It should also be possible to exempt applicants if there are particularly good reasons for doing so, reads the committee report.

The committee also suggests that refugees and people who have been given protection on other humanitarian grounds should still have the right to family reunification, as is also granted by the temporary law. They will not have to show that they are able to support the family members in Sweden (maintenance requirement), as long as the application is handed in no later than three months after their own residence permit has been granted.

The maintenance requirement should not apply to cases where a citizen of Sweden, EEA, Switzerland or the UK wishes to bring their partner to Sweden, as long as the pair have previously lived together abroad or are able to show in other ways that they are in a long-term relationship, according to the report.

Here's The Local's in-depth explanation of the proposals.

What happens next?

The fact that the policies above have been proposed by the committee does not automatically mean they will make it into Swedish law, or even to the next step of the legislative process.

What would normally happen is that Sweden's government would prepare a bill on the back of the proposals, then send it out for a consultation round, and then put it to parliament for a vote.

However, Sweden is ruled by a Social Democrat-Green centre-left coalition government, who disagree on many of the proposals. The Social Democrats back them all, but the Greens only a few, arguing that the majority of them are too strict. Bridging that gap in order to put forward a legislative proposal will prove difficult.

The conservative opposition in parliament, meanwhile, thinks the proposals don't go far enough.

The largest opposition party, the Moderate Party, for example wants people given protection on other humanitarian grounds to be entitled to family reunification only after two years, and wants to tighten up the rules for supporting family members that an applicant wants to bring to Sweden, reports TT.

The party also says no to allowing “particularly distressing circumstances” as grounds for protection, and wants to step up measures to ensure that people whose asylum application has been rejected leave the country.

Sweden's current temporary law is set to expire on July 19th, 2021. Unless parliament manages to agree on a new law to replace it, Sweden will return to the more generous laws that were in place before 2016.

Last year Sweden received almost 22,000 asylum applications, and the Migration Agency approved 27 percent of almost 25,000 asylum applications from first-time applicants that it processed over the course of the year.

The Migration Committee's work mainly looks at migration laws in relation to asylum rules, although some of the proposals also affect other foreign residents in Sweden. A separate ongoing inquiry into labour migration and work permits is set to present its report next year.

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