Swedish municipality refused to pick up UN quota refugees

The Moderate-led municipality of Staffanstorp refused to collect four UN quota refugees allotted to them on Thursday, putting it at loggerheads with Sweden's Migration Agency.

Swedish municipality refused to pick up UN quota refugees
An aerial view of central Staffanstorp. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Staffanstorp, whose Moderate mayor Christian Sonesson is known for populist gestures such as banning the headscarf, failed to send officials to pick up a family of four refugees when they arrived in Sweden on Thursday. 

“What do you do with a municipality which refuses to follow Swedish law? This is pretty unique and it’s hard to know how to respond,” the Migration Agency’s general director, Mikael Ribbenvik, told Sweden’s TT newswire. 

Migration minister Anders Ygeman accused Sonesson of creating a conflict to win votes. 

“This is not the first time Staffanstorp has done this. This is an election year and they want to perform some kind of circus act,” he said. “But in the past Staffanstorp has always ended up following the law.” 

Under Sweden’s bosättningslagen or residency law, the four refugees should have been taken to Staffanstorp by the municipality, who had been given information from the Migration Agency on where to collect them. But the municipality sent no one to do so. 

The Migration Agency has now sent the family to another municipality, said its press chief Guna Graufelds: “We didn’t want to risk that the family got stuck, so we found someone else to take responsibility for them”.  

Sonesson on Monday told TT that the municipality was ready to take 244 Ukrainian refugees, but would not accept any more UN quota refugees while the war in Ukraine was ongoing. The municipality has been asked to take 36 quota refugees this year. 

“This is the the first time a municipality has refused,” Graufelds said. “They’re not excused from this. There are no legal grounds for acting in this way.” 

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EXPLAINED: How Ukrainians can apply for protection in Sweden digitally

From Monday March 21st, refugees applying for protection under the EU's Temporary Protection Directive at Sweden's Migration Agency can do so online. Here's how the system works.

EXPLAINED: How Ukrainians can apply for protection in Sweden digitally

As The Local has previously reported, Ukrainians applying for protection in Sweden have been forced to queue for hours on end multiple days in a row outside the Migration Agency’s centres, due to insufficient staff, resulting in delays processing applications.

The EU’s temporary protection directive gives everyone seeking protection in Sweden the possibility of receiving assistance with food and housing, and the right to work, but it requires applicants to register at the Migration Agency first.

Although the agency has offices at multiple locations across the country, they are only open from 9am-3pm.

At a press conference last Friday, the agency’s director general, Mikael Ribbenvik, announced that a digital solution, enabling applicants to apply online at any time, would be available “from Monday”.

“This is not just a registration, but a full application,” Ribbenvik said. “It will relieve queues and increase our capacity radically”.

Ribbenvik further explained that biometric data, such as fingerprints and a photograph, which are needed to complement a full application, will be taken at a separate appointment at one of the agency’s offices, which applicants will be able to book online.

How do I apply for protection in Sweden online?

In order to apply online, you will need the following:

  • an email address
  • a mobile phone
  • a digital copy or photo of the passport or ID for each adult applying

Up to three adults and ten children can be listed on one application, and they don’t all need to be Ukrainian citizens – just the applicant.

Can anyone use this service?

No. This service is only available to the following people:

  • Ukrainian citizens resident in Ukraine prior to February 24th 2022
  • people holding a resident permit in Ukraine as a refugee or person in need of subsidiary protection
  • family members of the above

In addition to this, applicants must have left Ukraine on or after February 24th, 2022, and hold a valid passport, unless they are under 18.

Additionally, this service is for those who have already secured housing – anyone wishing to apply for housing via the Migration Agency will still need to attend an in-person appointment with the agency.

Where do I apply?

You can apply on the Migration Agency’s website, here. You will need to create a username and password in order to access the service.