Sweden first in the EU

Syrians to get permanent residence in Sweden

All Syrians who have arrived in Sweden as refugees are to get permanent residence permits. The Swedish Migration Board has made the decision as a result of the crisis in Syria, reports Swedish Radio News.

Sweden is the first country in the EU to grant permanent residence to Syrian refugees.

The Migration Board considers the security situation in Syria to be "extreme" and in its view, a general solution seems to be far away. 

"The conflict, one can say, to put it mildly, has worsened considerably. We believe that it will not end in the foreseeable future, so we are making a practical change. International Law allows us to give them permanent residence and that is the decision we have made," says Anders Danielsson at the Migration Board to Swedish Radio News.

A year ago, the Swedish Migration Board moved to give Syrian refugees three-year residency permits. Now, the 8,000 or so Syrians who have temporary residence permits can now stay in Sweden for good. They can also bring over their families.

"That is maybe the biggest consequence for an individual, to be able to be reunited with his or her family," says Anders Danielsson at the Migration Board.

"Any family members in Syria or neighbouring countries can turn to a Swedish embassy and apply there, get a visa, and come and get protection in Sweden," he adds.

There's currently no Swedish embassy operating in Syria and relatives of Syrians here are advised to go to Lebanon or other neighbouring countries taking in refugees.

So far, 1,600 Syrians who have temporary residence permits in Sweden, have contacted the Migration Board in an effort to bring over relatives.

One of them is Hanna Jacob who came to Sweden 11 months ago without his two children. He tells Swedish Radio News that his 2-year-old son in Syria has a heart condition and requires surgery.

"He is really really sick, there is no medicine in Syria, no doctors. I spoke to the Migration Board and they said that there was was nothing they could do to help my children without a permanent residence permit."

The UN says the conflict in Syria has caused the world's worst refugee crisis for 20 years, with two million Syrians now refugees, half of them children.

Sweden is the first country in Europe to give permanent residence to the Syrian refugees. All other EU states provide limited, often one year, temporary permits and the general director of the Migration Board told Swedish Radio News that they were obviously prepared for more Syrians arriving in the country.

Södertälje, south of Stockholm , has taken the most of those who have fled to Sweden from Syria. Around a tenth have chosen to settle in the municipality, where half of the residents are foreign-born. The chair of the Södertälje city council, Boel Godner tells news agency TT, that they faced a similar situation during the war in Iraq when many refugees settled in Södertälje.

She said the council faced many "tough challenges", such as overcrowding and unemployment. Prioritising young children, Boel Godner said that they had invested heavily in schools to give "everyone an equal chance" but wished that more municipalties in Sweden would "share the burden".

Meanwhile, Sweden's EU Migration Commissioner, Cecilia Malmström says she wants EU nations to take more responsibility when it comes to refugees.

Today there is no legal way into Europe for those fleeing Syria. The UN estimates that 45,000 Syrians out of the 2 million that have fled have found their way into Europe illegally. Malmström tells TT that she did not think that Sweden's decision would have any knock-on effect on the other EU nations in the short-term. But she would urge others to follow Sweden's lead.