Government delays criticised refugee compensation system

After widespread complaints, the Swedish government has agreed to postpone the introduction of a new compensation system for municipalities that take in unaccompanied migrant minors.

The introduction of the new system has been delayed for six months, from January 2017 to July 2017, Minister for Finance Magdalena Andersson said during a Tuesday press conference, but she insisted that a change is necessary since “the system we have today totally lacks cost controls”.

”Last year, 35,000 unaccompanied children arrived here, which is a dramatic increase. Sweden took in 40 percent of all unaccompanied children who came to the EU,” said Minister for Employment and Integration, Ylva Johansson.

The current compensation system, whereby municipalities receive a daily rate for each refugee minor who settles within their catchment area, involves cumbersome administrative work, according to Johansson. She said the new system will be based on lump sums, and that the initiative is widely supported by municipalities.

Initially, the government wanted the new system to come into effect in January 2017 but the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions protested, arguing that many municipalities are tied to long-term deals with residential care homes for children and young people where migrant minors are placed. The municipalities were concerned about missing out on monetary compensation under the new system and so the government has agreed to postpone the start date to offer enough time for adjustment.

However, the compensation rates will remain at the previously suggested level. The government is allocating SEK 40 million for 2017 and 2018. According to the new system, unaccompanied minors who have turned 18 will be moved to regular refugee accommodation.

The government estimates that the new compensation system will apply to 45,000 unaccompanied minors next year and to 65,500 in 2018. Those figures include migrants who have turned 18 and who have been granted a residence permit. State compensation is offered until the migrant turns 21. Today, the compensation rate for municipalities is 1,900 per child and day, but the government wants to lower it to 1,350.

The government counts on saving SEK 7 billion from 2018, but next year the compensation system will involve a cost increase of SEK 4 billion.