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Reinfeldt sharply criticizes migration minister

Published tisdag 19 mars 2013 kl 16.43
Billströms controversial comments
7:14 min
Tobias Billström and Fredrik Reinfeldt. Photo: Scanpix.

Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt has openly criticised his Migration Minister Tobias Billström Tuesday, following comments the minister made to Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter.

Prime Minister Reinfeldt says Billström's statements to the paper were highly inappropriate but that he thought it was good that he had apologized for them.

When asked directly if he still had confidence in his minister, Reinfeldt answered that he has confidence in all of his ministers, until he says otherwise.

Political scientist Tommy Möller from Stockholm University told news agency TT that it was one of the harshest criticisms of a sitting minister in Swedish politics in modern times, because it was made openly to the Swedish media. In similar cases, where the comments have been made behind closed doors, ministers have quit as a result, he added.

Billström apologized after his comments to newspaper Dagens Nyheter caused an uproar. In the article, Billström had 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 had previously spoken of the "volume" of migrants wanting to move to Sweden, a phrasing that rasied eyebrows.

In comments to the Swedish media this afternoon, Reinfeldt says Tobias Billström, who has been migration minister since 2006, has frequently shown that he has the ability to find a balanced and humane approach, which also reflects the government's and the Moderate Party's views on migration issues.

"But he has recently failed a few times and it is aggravating that it happened on several occasions. So I have made ​​it clear to him that the way to regain confidence with the public is to stick to the humane focus (of our migration policy) and that he must work hard to regain trust," says Reinfeldt.

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