“They claim that this will encourage more people to leave the country voluntarily,” says Anne Ramberg, president of the Swedish Bar Association. “But we don’t think so,” she tells Swedish Radio News. “We think there’s a greater risk that people will instead go underground. Cancelling their benefits by itself isn’t enough to convince anyone to leave.”
The plan, which is to go into effect from June 1, would affect around 10,000 rejected asylum-seekers. Around half of them are adults without children, and they are the primary focus of the plan drafted by the government and the four center-right Alliance parties.
Rejected asylum-seekers would no longer be allowed to stay in refugee housing, which the plan’s proponents say is needed for newly arrived asylum-seekers.
While the Migration Board is among those welcoming the plan, Swedish Radio News reports that a number of agencies and organizations have expressed opposition.
Örebro University calls on the government to take a look at other countries which have implemented such a system, like Norway. An evaluation has concluded that the system there has led to increased social deprivation and higher healthcare costs. Instead of voluntarily leaving the country, the study concluded, rejected asylum-seekers in Norway who were deprived of food and housing, focused instead on daily survival.
The Discrimination Ombudsman says the problems with the government’s plan are so widespread that it should be stopped.
“We believe that first of all the government has failed to analyze how this would encourage people to leave,” Martin Mörk of the ombudsman’s office tells Swedish Radio News. “And secondly it is uncertain what will happen to these people.” He says there’s no analysis of whether local social services would be obliged to give them support.
The government says the plan will save money for the state, and will not mean any increased outlays for local authorities.
But the National Board of Health and Welfare and the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions, which support the proposal, also say it can mean extra costs for local social services if those who are cut off should turn to them.
“There’s the Social Services Act,” Leif Klingensjö of the local government association tells Swedish Radio News, “and municipalities have a responsibility for everyone within their borders. If this group doesn’t leave Sweden, but wind up needing urgent help, that would be a cost for municipalities.”