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Moderate MP calls for moratorium on Swedish citizenship grants

An MP for the right-wing Moderate party has called for a moratorium on Swedish citizenship until new tougher rules planned by the incoming right-wing government are in place.

Moderate MP calls for moratorium on Swedish citizenship grants
Fredrik Kärrholm is one of this year's new Moderate Party MPs. Photo: Fredrik Kärrholm campaign page

Fredrik Kärrholm, a former police officer newly elected as a Moderate MP, floated the idea of the moratorium in a tweet on Thursday. 

“The Christian Democrats, Liberals, Sweden Democrats and Moderates all want to tighten citizenship requirements,” he wrote. 

“Right now 96,411 applications are being processed. While new legislation is being hammered out, a moratorium on new citizenships should be considered.” 

The proposal seems to come from Kärrholm himself, and does not necessarily reflect Moderate Party policy, but it may indicate the thinking of some in the party over tightening citizenship, a subject which is bound to be a significant part of the ongoing discussions on the next government’s programme.  

Kärrholm caused controversy in the election campaign for posing in campaign literature dressed in police uniform, despite having left the police force in 2021. 

Sweden’s national police said at the time that it was inappropriate for former or serving police officers to use police uniform or symbols in political campaigns. 

“This is about preserving the confidence of the public and keeping political roles separate from roles as a public official,” police spokesperson Irene Sokolow told the Aftonbladet newspaper

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KEY POINTS: What we know so far about Sweden’s first census in more than 30 years

Sweden's new right-wing government has promised to carry out the first national census in more than 30 years. What do we know about the plans, and when or if it is likely to happen?

KEY POINTS: What we know so far about Sweden's first census in more than 30 years

What has the government so far said about its plans? 

In the Tidö Agreement between the three parties in the government coalition and the far-Right Sweden Democrats, it says that  “work shall be carried out to prepare a large-scale national census”. 

According to the agreement, work would start with an individual (or perhaps agency) being given a “myndighetsöverskridande uppdrag“, a charge which will give them power over several government agencies, to prepare how to carry out such a census. 

The agreement also calls for changes to make it “easier to trace afterward who has been registered in a certain apartment or property in order to prosecute civil registration offences.”

In the regeringsförklaring, the speech made by Sweden’s prime minister Ulf Kristersson laying out the government’s plans the language is stronger. It says that “a census shall be carried out and coordination numbers which are not confirmed will be recalled”.  

Then in the coming budget, the government has set aside nearly 500m kronor for carrying out a budget, with 80m to be spent in 2023, 170m in 2024 and a further 170m in 2025. 

READ ALSO: How does Sweden’s new government want to change migration policy? 

While the language in the Tidö Agreement suggests only that preparatory work need be done during this mandate period, the language in Kristersson’s speech indicates that the actual census will be carried out.

The budget allocations, however, do not look large enough to carry out the sort of full-scale census the parties have promised. 

“The way they spoke about the census [during the campaign], it will require a massive amount of money and and resources. And since they have not allocated those resources in the budget, we are wondering what is happening,” Peder Björk, a Social Democrat MP who sits on the tax committee, told The Local. 

“The 500m kronor indicated for the coming three years,” he said, was “not even close to enough to do the kind of census that they have been talking about”. 

“We are afraid that they will take money that could be used for other important work at the Tax Authority, and use it for the census.”

Björk on December 1st, submitted a parliamentary question to the government asking for clarification about its plans. 

What do we know about how the census will take place? 

Richard Jomshof, the Sweden Democrat chair of the parliament’s Justice Committee, told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper this week that he believed that this census would require an “outreach organisation”, with teams of officials visiting homes around the country to check that those, and only those, registered there are living there. 

In a written statement to DN, Sweden’s Finance Minister Elisabeth Svantesson confirmed that officials would be required to visit some citizens’ homes, with “targeted checks in areas where there is considered to be a significant risk of incorrect registration in the population register”.

In a proposal made in 2020, the Moderate Party suggested that the Swedish Tax Agency should lead the census, with Statistics Sweden, the Police Agency, and local municipalities and regions working under it.  

The census will primarily be carried out digitally, with people encouraged to verify their details online, or, failing that through filling in a physical form. 

According to the 2020 proposal, the relevant authorities would only make home visits to areas where there is a suspected high level of false registration, or to homes where an unusually large number of people are registered, or to homes where the people registered changes very frequently. 

Anyone who is not registered in the census would immediately lose their right to welfare benefits according to the proposal. 

When did Sweden last have a census? 

Sweden has not had a census since 1990, when the country switched from having a questionnaire-based system to having a registry-based system, where each individual has to be registered with the Swedish Tax Agency in order to access government services, health, and welfare. 

Up until 1990, Sweden carried out regular censuses. Between 1965 and 1990, a census and housing register was carried out every five years. From 1955 until 1965, a census was carried out every five years, and from 1930 until 1955,  a census was carried out every ten years.

Why is there such pressure to have a new census? 

Sweden’s population has grown by close to two million people since the last census, from 8.6m in 1990 to 10.4m in 2020. 

While most of those people are represented in the national register, there have been growing concerns about the number of people living in Sweden illegally, some of whom are not registered at all, of people being registered as living at a false address, or of the large number of identity numbers that do not correspond to a real person. 

The Swedish Tax Agency has estimated that as many as 200,000 people are registered as living at the wrong address in Sweden, with criminals accused of registering themselves at the wrong address to avoid the police and debt collection agencies.

What have the parties’ policies been?  

For the Sweden Democrats, this has long been a campaigning issue, with the party claiming that relying on registration means that no one knows for sure who is living in Sweden.

“Sweden has lost control of the situation when it comes to who is living in the country and who is registered,” Sweden Democrat MP David Lang wrote in a 2021 motion to the parliament calling for a census. 

In 2020, the Moderate Party started to campaign for a census and in launching an initiative in the parliament’s tax committee

In April 2022, Sweden’s parliament voted in favour of a Moderate-party led proposal to carry one out. (Ibrahim Baylan, Sweden’s former business minister, voted against Social Democrat party line by mistake, allowing the motion to pass.)

The then Social Democrat-led government refused to act on parliament’s decision, however. 

“The registry-based system,” Ida Karkalainen, the then minister of social affairs, said was “simpler for the population” and allowed “better and more up-to-date statistics”. 

The Social Democrat approach has been instead to take actions to improve the registration system, developing, for example, the proposal passed this week which will require people holding coordination numbers to visit the Tax Agency with some ID to prove their identity. The party has argued that holding a separate census would both be costly and unnecessary. 

Which other countries in Europe have recently carried out censuses? 

Germany carried out a national census this year, with the stated aim being to “determine how many people live in Germany and how they live and work”. 

The UK carried out a census in 2021, with the results published this year. 

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