Migrants arriving last year at Malmö's Hyllie station.
Migrants arriving last year at Malmö's Hyllie station. Credit: Johan Nilsson / TT.

Rules could put family reunification out of reach for many

4:18 min

Sweden's proposed law to restrict family reunifications for immigrants would be one of Europe's toughest if it becomes law this summer, according to a review by Swedish Radio News.

Experts say this is part of an overall European trend with nations tightening asylum rules to keep refugees from seeking shelter there.

"We see a downward spiral where no country wants to be perceived as more generous than other states," said Anne Bathily, senior policy officer at the European Council on Refugees and Exiles.

The change in rules could hit Syrians and Iraqis especially hard, two of the largest groups coming to Sweden. Last year, only 10 percent of Syrians and just a little over half of Iraqis who received residence permits here were classified as refugees, meaning many could be deprived the right to family reunification.

In November, the government announced it would adapt Swedish asylum regulations to the EU's minimum level, meaning the country would only follow the basic standards and procedures for processing and assessing asylum applications as spelled out in EU law. The change was made to deter asylum seekers from coming to Sweden.

The new rules would only allow those classified as refugees under the UN's Convention relating to the Status of Refugees - those who have a well-founded fear of persecution because of their race, religion, nationality, gender, sexual orientation or political opinions - to have the right to reunite with their relatives, usually a spouse or children under the age of 18.

Besides the category of refugee, others who seek asylum can qualify for the status of "subsidiary protection", if they are, for example, fleeing war, but are not being persecuted themselves.

In the proposed Swedish legislation, migrants deemed eligible for subsidiary protection will not have the right to family reunification if they applied for asylum after November 24.

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