Refugees by train in Sweden. Photo: Johan Ekström/TT
1000 refugees apply for asylum in Sweden every day now. Photo: Johan Ekströmer/TT.

Pressing need to relocate refugees across the country

6:07 min

With 1,000 people applying for asylum every day now in Sweden, the need to relocate people across the country is becoming more pressing.

On Friday, the government announced that it aims to speed up the legislation that will force municipalities to receive refugees. And now the organisation that represents the municipalities has agreed that this is a fair move - at least temporarily.

The debate in Europe on how more countries need to do more to help out receiving refugees, mirrors an age-old debate in Sweden, where some municipalities receive many refugees, while others don't receive any at all. Recently the Liberal Party turned around and said the system where municipalities themselves can decide if they want to receive refugees or not, is not working. 

"I think it is reasonable that all Swedish municipalities share this responsibility, just like we want all countries in Europe to share the responsibility - it is just does not make sense that some municipalities can step away from it," said Liberal Party leader Jan Björklund.

With this new majority in parliament, the Minister for Integration Morgan Johansson announced on Friday that the law that forces all municipalities to receive refugees - that had been planned to come into effect next summer - will be rushed through to come into effect early in the new year.

"We need all the places we can get. There are people coming to Sweden right now. We have around 1,000 (new) asylum seekers every day in Sweden and of course when we have almost 10,000 people with permits in our asylum accommodation system, it is a big problem for us. We need those places for new arrivals," said Mikael Ribbenvik is the operative manager of the Migration Agency. 

What is new is that the Association of Local Authorities and Regions that represents the municipalities is now also coming around to the idea that no local authority should be able to say no with reference to lack of housing or whatever.

"It is currently an extra-ordinary situation," Lena Micko, chairperson of the organisation, told Swedish Radio News. "We certainly want to guard the strong independence of the municipalities, which is written in Swedish law - but it can't be right that we just have some municipalities that take the responsibility for other municipalities. In order for the municipal independence to function, the municipalities will have to take the joint responsibility for people coming to our country."

But for the Association of Local Authorities and Regions to accept the new law, they want it to be limited in time to three years and that the municipalities get full compensation from the state for the extra costs, such as for housing and schools.

They also want all refugees coming to a municipality - also the ones who move there on their own accord - taken into account when it's being decided how many more should be sent there.

Meanwhile, people continue to come to Sweden and seek asylum. Earlier this year, the Migration Board estimated that it took approximately 10 months from an application to when you can actually find out if you are given asylum or not. With the amount of people coming now, it takes even longer.

So the need for accommodation for asylum seekers is pressing. In Skåne, the Migration Agency is hoping that a former shooting range outside Kristianstad, which in the past it has been used for big scout camps, now can be filled with emergency housing for asylum seekers.

If those 10,000 people who are currently at reception centres but who have been granted asylum - and who know that they are allowed to stay - if they could be relocated to municipalities, a lot would be won, says Mikael Ribbenvik of the Migration Agency.

"If the municipalities would acknowledge the situation we are in right now, I think it would be quite easy to make arrangements. We are not talking about more than perhaps 15 or 20 (refugees) per municipality on average," he said.

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