Parliament to pass stricter immigration laws

5:02 min

The much-criticised law tightening Swedish immigration is expected to be voted through in parliament this afternoon, as only two smaller parties will vote against it.

The proposed law would make temporary residence permits the rule, a permit lasting three years for refugees, and one year for people who are in need of protection after they have fled from war or conflict. During that period, there would be virtually no right to family reunion, unless you are able to earn a living here and prove you have a home and a way to support the family member you want to reunite with. This maintenance requirement also applies to family immigration outside the asylum system.

This is proposed as a temporary law, for three years. According to the government it is necessary, to cut the number of people applying for asylum in Sweden and to improve the capacity of the Swedish refugee reception system, which last year saw over 160,000 people applying for asylum in Sweden.

This is what Morgan Johansson, Social Democrat integration Minister said of the proposal, when it was debated in Parliament on Monday.

"What do we do when other counties do not take their responsibility, and when other countries tighten their laws, can we stand by our laws, when we know that we will not manage the same influx (of refugees) one more time? ... It is rare that you (as a politician) can choose between two good things, often you are forced to choose the less bad, because the alternative is worse. ... This is the hardest piece of law-making process that I have been through in my 20 years in national politics, but it is necessary decision to prevent that Sweden ends up in the same situation that we were during the autumn of 2015," he said

During the consultation phase, the proposal was criticised by stakeholder organisations including UNHCR, Amnesty and the Red Cross, as well as the state Migration Agency, which will have to enforce the changes. But in parliament only the Left Party and the Centre Party are expected to vote against it.

Johanna Jönsson is the Centre Party's spokesperson for migration.

"To stop very vulnerable families from living together is nothing less than inhumane. We in the Center Party are not alone in being critical against Sweden now taking steps to become one of the countries - next to Greece, Romania, Cyprus and Malta - that gives the worst protection to people who are fleeing," she said during the debate in parliament.

The Liberal Party, as well as the Christian Democrats, will vote in favour of the law, but have tabled amendments, for example to ease the rules on family reunion, which they fear will force more families out on dangerous trips on the Mediterranean and make integration for the people have more difficult. The liberals also think that one year temporary residence permits are too strict, they should at least be three years.

Fredrik Malm is the Liberal party spokesperson on migration.

"For us in the liberal party, we believe that we cannot just sit down with our hands in our pockets and doing nothing, because then we will have a situation that we cannot handle, so we need actually to have some more restrictive policies in order to handle the situation, but we don't want to go this far, as the government, and the Moderates and the Sweden democrats want to go," Fredrik Malm told Radio Sweden.

Meanwhile, the conservative Moderate Party and the Sweden Democrats are in favour of the law, but would like to make it permanent.

Johan Forssell represents the Moderate Party, which is the biggest party in opposition.

"When this temporary law has expired in two, or three years, then it is important that Sweden does not return to the very permissive migration policy that was in place before and that have contributed to the problems that Sweden has felt over the past two years. We still have a lot of pressure on the refugee reception systems, a lack of houses and a crisis in the social services and many other problems," he said in a debate on Swedish Radio.

In parliament, the Sweden Democrat spokesperson on migration, Paula Bieler, said she feels that the debate has moved in the direction of her party.

"We welcome the government's proposal, as a step in the right direction and a clear sign that also the red and green parties start to realise the consequences of their asylum policies and are moving closer to the Sweden Democrats on this issue," she said, adding that the laws would not be enough to really stop people from coming to Sweden to apply for asylum.

The plan is for the new law to come into force on the 20 July. The restrictions do not apply to people who applied for asylum before November 24th 2015.