Government: Refugee situation in Sweden is "very serious"
The Swedish government announced new guidelines Thursday for how to deal with the influx of asylum seekers and said it is necessary that EU nations take greater responsibility for refugee reception.
Minister for Employment Ylva Johansson and Minister for Children, the Elderly and Gender Equality Åsa Regnér held a joint press conference at noon on Thursday.
"Sweden is in a very serious situation. We can cope. We have coped so far and we take on a much greater responsibility than most other EU countries. We do what we can in the situation, but it is very needed and very necessary that other countries help," Åsa Regnér told Radio Sweden.
The two Social Democrat ministers announced a package of measures, some of which will happen automatically, and some that will need to be voted through by parliament.
- An enquiry will be launched to gain an overall, long-term view of the asylum issue.
- The government will ask the Migration Agency to apply for EU emergency funds from the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF).
- The government will ask to be part of the EU redistribution of asylum application.
- A proposal will be put to Swedish parliament for a law creating a new, cheaper form of housing for unaccompanied refugee minors.
Because of a standing cross-party compromise on migration issues, the government hopes to get a majority for its new law and for it to come into force in January 2016.
However, Ylva Johansson said she would not say that Sweden was in an emergency situation, despite applying for emergency EU funds.
Sweden is currently struggling to meet its own standards on how those seeking refuge should be treated. Municipalities around the country and the Swedish Migration Board are struggling to cope with the pressure as the number of refugees arriving in the country continues to grow, Johansson said.
The Swedish system to receive unaccompanied refugee minors is designed to take 800 per year, while the figure so far this year is over 14,000.
Åsa Regnér told Radio Sweden that the proposed new, more tailored form of accommodation for unaccompanied children, called stödboende, meaning support residence, would be cheaper and take pressure off local municipalities.
Studies of previous refugee minors have shown that they need less support than the system mandates, Regnér said, adding that the children in question are often stable individuals who perform well educationally.
The Swedish Migration Agency is responsible for processing asylum applications and for arranging accommodation and other support for refugees.
"The system is already overloaded and we are now seeing that the number of asylum seekers heading to Sweden is growing," Mikael Ribbenvik, the Migration Agency's head of operations, said in a press statement Thursday.