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Migration minister apologises for blonde remarks

Published måndag 18 mars 2013 kl 18.11
Migration Minister Tobias Billström. Photo: Ekot

Sweden's Minister for Migration and Asylum Policy, Tobias Billström, has apologised for comments he made about people who help illegal immigrants.

"I understand that people were provoked by the way I expressed myself," he told Swedish Radio on Monday.

In an interview with Swedish daily, Dagens Nyheter, Billström described people who sheltered undocumented migrants as unlikely to be middle-aged, blonde-haired and blue-eyed Swedes, instead, he said, many were staying with their countrymen, who might not be driven by virtuous motives.

He also indicated that he was against reforms, introduced by the governing centre-right coalition that will allow undocumented migrants to attend senior high schools.

Following an outcry on social media, and from politicians, Billström has since apologised for his remarks about blond, blue-eyed Swedes, and his press secretary told Dagens Nyheter that the minister is entirely behind the provision of secondary education for Sweden's undocumented migrants which, according to the paper, number between 10 and 35,000.

Billström's comments are the latest in a series of incidents that have thrown into doubt an agreement between some of Sweden's main political parties to limit the extent the far-right, anti-immigration party, the Sweden Democrats has on immigration policy.

Jan Björklund, leader of Sweden's Liberal Party, one of the four parties in the country's ruling coalition, has appealed for consensus across the political spectrum on the issue.

Björklund said that recent comments by Billström of the centre-right Moderate Party, referring to immigrant numbers as "volumes" were unhelpful. Last week, Sweden's Green Party threatened to withdraw their support from the deal.

Last week, the Green Party said it wanted a more generous interpretation of the rules regarding immigration, while Billström has called for a more restrictive asylum policy.

Swedish Prime Minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt, has joined the debate, telling Swedish Television's Agenda current affairs program on Sunday, that people who face deportation, have no choice but to leave the country.

Reinfeldt has also welcomed Billström's latest apology.

The row comes as Swedish police face criticism of their so-called "Reva" initiative to step up the deportation of people who do not have permission to stay in Sweden

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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