Govt has "abdicated responsibility for refugees"

3:55 min

As a new law allowing undocumented migrants to receive medical care in Sweden came into effect on Monday, the association of local authorities and counties (SKL), said the state needs to provide more support for newly arrived refugees.

However, Södertälje, one of the municipalities that received the largest number of refugees - more Iraqi asylum seekers than the entire US - thinks SKL should put even more pressure on the government.

Anders Knape, president of SKL says thats although municipalties bear the costs of people moving to Sweden, the problem is not only about money.

"What we need are more grants from the government but not only that, we also need to produce more homes and learn how to  handle new groups that we are not used to."

Staffan Norberg, the Left Party mayor of Södertälje thinks the government is shirking its responsibility:

"The government has abdicated its responsibility on this issue. Five or six municipalities have been left to manage the Swedish refugee and immigration policy," he tells SR International.

Södertälje is the municipality which - relative to its size - has received the highest number of new immigrants during the last ten years. Between 2003 and 2012,over 9,000 Iraqis and Syrians sought asylum in Södertälje, a town with 65,000 inhabitants.

This has created an "untenable situation", says Staffan Norberg, especially as many asylum seekers have also been seeking to go there while their application is processed.

Since 1994, asylum seekers have had the right to choose where to stay during the applicaton period - an opportunity that about 40 percent of asylum seekers utilize, though undertsandly often choosing a place to live where they have relatives and friends.

Anders Knape at the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions believes asylum seekers should have the right to choose where they live but there is a problem that people end up living in overcrowded conditions.

"We have a situation today that in some local areas, people live in very bad conditions because it is so overcrowded. We want to have at least a system where, if you are going to decide to settle where you want to, then you must be able to ensure that the conditions are decent."