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Debate within Liberal Party about refugees continues

Updated onsdag 4 februari 2015 kl 17.48
Published onsdag 4 februari 2015 kl 10.21
"Today I am ashamed of my party"
(3:04 min)
Pierre Månsson and Torkild Strandberg, two of Liberal Party members who wrote debate article in Dagens Nyheter. Photo: Sveriges Radio
Pierre Månsson and Torkild Strandberg, two of Liberal Party members who wrote debate article in Dagens Nyheter. Photo: Sveriges Radio

In an opinion piece in today's Dagens Nyheter newspaper, four politicians from the opposition Liberal Party say they want to allow each municipality throughout Sweden to set their own ceiling for how many refugees they can take in. But the party is split about this issue and there have been strong reactions and debate within the party.

The three local Liberal Party members, as well as one from the national steering committee, also wrote that all political parties in Parliament should come to an agreement about how many refugees municipalities throughout the country can take in.

However, also on Wednesday, two other Liberal Party members wrote another debate article in newspaper Svenska Dagbladet, proposing the setting up of an independent expert committee to examine exactly how many refugees Sweden can integrate.

These proposals come following official party suggestions last week that Sweden should use more temporary residence permits and find other ways to encourage newly-arrived refugees to get into work sooner.

One of the authors of the opinion piece in Dagens Nyheter this morning, Torkild Strandberg from Landskrona in southern Sweden, spoke to Swedish Radio News about their proposals for refugees coming into Sweden.

"We can't maintain the current levels. We want to turn things around. Instead of the state deciding how many should come to Sweden and with the municipalities then having to deal with the realities of integration, he wants the municipalities to have a say in how many each municipality can accept so they can be received in a humanitarian and good way," Strandberg said.

Yesterday, the Migration Board estimated that there will be 90,000 refugees coming to Sweden this year, but the four Liberals who wrote the debate article didn't say how many fewer refugees should be allowed into the country, or have any specific policy suggestions. But the article has provoked some very strong reactions within the party, even though they aren't party policy.

Linda Nordlund, head of the youth wing of the party wrote on Twitter this morning: "Today I am ashamed of my party".

"Today we see the world burning, people fleeing from genocide in the war in Syria. To say, in this situation, that we should close our borders because municipalities are not fully prepared, I think that it is very distressing that it is liberals who should present this suggestion," Nordlund told Swedish Radio News.

And she is not alone in being upset. The party's MEP Cecilia Wikström told the news agency TT: "It is terrible what is happening to my little party," she said.

She finds the whole debate about putting a cap on how many people Sweden should accept is like putting a cap on how human we are going to be. "None of the ones who are out now (saying this) answer the question of where people should go. It makes me incredibly upset. They talk about their limited experience from one council in the welfare of Sweden. I have seen things that these councillors have not been even close to," she said.

The issue is very topical within the Liberal Party right now. At the party's national congress this coming autumn, the Liberals will unite around a new integration policy. Recently, a party committee, with support from party leader Jan Björklund, proposed a Swedish language test be required for citizenship, tougher requirements for immigration of family members and that having a job should be a requirement to receive a permanent residence permit.

But Björklund does not support a limit to the number of incoming refugees. Instead, he says that the right to asylum must be upheld.

"If it's going to work, we must radically reshape Swedish integration policy, so that when people come to Sweden they get a job faster and can support themselves, instead of needing to live off of government assistance and in isolation," Björklund told Swedish Radio News.

Björklund thinks that an open debate within the party is positive and that people must be able to express what they think.

But not all Liberals agree with him. In an article in tabloid Aftonbladet today, Hanna Håkanson, head of the student organization of the Liberal Party, called for Björklund's resignation.

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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