Many refugees in Sweden today are sleeping in sports halls or evacuation accommodation.
“We have to replace these with much better housing, and that’s what we are feverishly looking for now,” Willis Åberg, in charge of housing procurement for the Migration Board, tells Swedish Radio News.
He says the board is looking for between 5000 and 6000 places for those currently living in what is very temporary housing.
“There is some evacuation accommodation that is better than others,” he says, “so we have to replace them at varying rates. But altogether it’s five to six thousand beds.”
Another problem is the refugees living in seasonal accommodation, like campsites or tourist hotels in the mountains. There are more than 5000 of them, who will have to make way for tourists, especially when the camping season starts in the spring.
Willis Åberg says the Migration Board wants to return to the normal standard for refugee accommodation. But that would also increase the need for new housing.
“We’re talking about 15,000 to 20,000 places that have to be replaced as soon as possible,” he says. “And then we can’t forget that new asylum-seekers are arriving every day. They will also need a place to live, and we have to keep up with that.”
Just before Christmas the Migration Board announced it had a contract to place more than 1200 refugees on a ship. But the deal has still not been completed, and Willis Åberg tells Swedish Radio News that he can’t say when, or even if, it will become a reality.
Meanwhile, the time for the board to process asylum applications is increasing. Swedish Television News reports that it’s now taking the authorities almost six months before they can even start looking at an application. That’s twice the delay of a year ago.
Then the actual process itself is taking longer now. The Migration Board estimates that the average time to process an asylum application now can be up to two years. The board hired around 3000 new employees last year to deal with the increase in refugees arriving in Sweden. Right now 155,000 asylum-seekers are waiting for their applications to be processed.