“This is the largest and fastest-growing refugee stream in Europe since World War Two,” Anders Ygeman, Sweden’s migration minister, said at a press conference announcing the agency’s latest analysis.
The Migration Agency presented three scenarios for how many refugees might seek shelter in Sweden, with as many as 212,000 refugees entering the country over the next few months under the most extreme scenario.
The agency’s director general, Mikael Ribbenvik, stressed that the scenarios were “not a prognosis”, as there are “many unknown variables”.
So far, 5,200 refugees from Ukraine have registered at the Migration Agency since arriving in Sweden, Ribbenvik said, but he warned that the real number of refugees in the country was already much higher.
“We estimate that there are maybe 4,000 per day, but we also have blind spots such as the Öresund bridge,” he said, explaining that refugees arriving by ferry or air were more easily monitored than those driving over the Öresund bridge in their own cars.
“There are many more arriving in Sweden that what statistics show. Many travel onwards to friends and relatives, but in recent days, we’ve seen that many have started to get in touch with us. We need to consider what’s to come.”
In the lowest scenario presented by the Migration Agency, 27,000 Ukrainian refugees will arrive in Sweden between now and June, requiring an estimated 8,000 extra places to stay.
In the middle scenario – the one which the Migration Agency believes is most likely – 76,000 refugees will arrive in the country, requiring a total of 40,000 extra places in accommodation.
The most extreme scenario will only happen if the war in Ukraine continues for a long period of time or spreads to the west of the country. The agency estimates that if that comes to pass, it will need to find accommodation for 168,000 extra people.
If this were the case, more refugees would arrive in the first half of 2022 than in the entirety of the 2015 refugee crisis, where an estimated 163,000 people applied for asylum in Sweden.
In order to meet demand, the agency plans to open new offices in Växjö, Norrköping and Märsta in Stockholm to handle asylum applications, and is considering opening more should the need arise.
In addition to this, the agency has started a national migration group to coordinate relevant authorities such as the police, the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB), and Sweden’s county administrative boards (Länsstyrelser).
This group met for the first time on Friday morning, and identified four focus areas: housing, financial aid, how to best coordinate with civil society, and legal issues.
The migration agency and the government are also working together with municipalities to make sure that the burden of housing refugees is split fairly between municipalities.
“We need to take our share of the responsibility, but other countries need to take their share too,” Ygeman said. “We also need to share responsibility within Sweden. We are working actively within the government to make sure there is a distribution among municipalities, so we can take our shared responsibility for accepting refugees.”
The greatest challenge for the Migration Agency will be providing housing, Ygeman said.
The Local asked Ribbenvik and Ygeman whether it was currently possible for people already living in Sweden to volunteer to offer rooms and housing to those approaching the Migration Agency. Ribbenvik said that, while this was not currently possible, it was something the national migration group was already considering.
“It’s not currently possible for us [the Migration Agency] to accept individual offers of single rooms or homes,” Ribbenvik told The Local. “It’s frustrating for individuals but is part of the work the national migration group are undertaking. We will discuss this with civil society.”
He said that the group was considering “what needs to happen via authorities, and what can be done through civil society?”
The Local also asked whether refugees arriving in the country should go to the Migration Agency directly, or whether they should seek help from voluntary organisations first.
“In the first instance, if you know someone who can offer accommodation, go to them,” Ygeman said, referring to refugees arriving in the country. “In the second instance, reach out to a voluntary organisation. Soon, there will be an authority for these people to contact.”