(Nov. 30, 2015) On November 24, 2015, the Swedish government announced that it would bring changes to Swedish asylum rules to a vote in Parliament, following reports from the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency that the current refugee situation now is a risk to the life and health of people in Sweden because important forces of societal control (such as health providers and the police) cannot cope with the influx. Under the new rules, Sweden will adopt minimum rules that better correspond to those of other European Union (EU) countries. This includes the granting of temporary residency permits to all asylum seekers except for quota refugees (refugees received under the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees quota system). (Press Release (with video), Regeringen föreslår åtgärder för att skapa andrum for svenskt flyktingmottagande, REGERINGEN (Nov. 24 2015); for information on Sweden’s UNHCR quota system, see SWEDEN, COUNTRY CHAPTERS – UNHCR RESETTLEMENT HANDBOOK (revised Sept. 2014).)
Under the new rules, families who applied for asylum prior to November 24, 2015, and whose children are younger than 18 years of age when their application is processed will continue to receive permanent residence. The government will also investigate the possibility of allowing private persons to house asylum seekers in their homes and to receive compensation for it. (Id.)
Effective immediately, the police will adopt ID requirements for persons who travel to Sweden via public transportation from both Denmark and Germany. This is a move designed to reduce the number of asylum seekers who reach Sweden. The borders will remain open for asylum seekers who have the requisite identification information. (Id.)
The Moderate Party leader Anna Kinberg Batra has previously proposed that Sweden both close its borders to all asylum seekers who arrive from another EU country, i.e., apply the EU’s Dublin III Regulation strictly, and make a reduction in the Swedish annual monetary contribution to the EU budget as a response to what she describes as the disproportional burden on Sweden created by asylum seekers. (M: “Stoppa flyktingar som kommer via EU,” SVD (Nov. 9, 2015).) The Dublin III Regulation provides that asylum seekers should apply for asylum in the first EU country they enter. Applying the Dublin Regulation strictly would mean that any asylum seeker arriving via an EU country will be refused entry into Sweden because that the person should have sought asylum in the first safe EU country he or she entered on the journey to Sweden. The asylum seeker would thus have to remain in Denmark or Germany, which might not apply the Regulation as strictly. (Regulation (EU) No. 604/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 June 2013 Establishing the Criteria and Mechanisms for Determining the Member State responsible for Examining an Application for International Protection Lodged in one of the Member States by a Third-Country National or a Stateless Person (Recast), EUR-LEX.)
In its announcement, which is expected to gain broad support in the Parliament, the government welcomed further talks with the four other political parties (the Alliance) that had worked with the government in October to adopt new rules on asylum. (Id.; Johan Wicklén & Kerstin Holm, Regeringen och Alliansen överens om flyktingmottagandet, SVT (Oct. 23, 2015); Luis Acosta, Sweden: Limit on Asylum Seekers Reached, Measures to Cope with Influx, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (Nov. 12, 2015).) Those rules have been deemed insufficient to stem the number of asylum seekers who continue to reach Sweden despite the Migration Authority’s announcement that it cannot provide housing to asylum seekers who arrive. (Regeringen föreslår åtgärder för att skapa andrum for svenskt flyktingmottagande, supra.)
Although the new asylum measures will pass in parliament the government has received criticism from the Left Party that the restrictions go too far, stating “Sweden was the beacon of light [for asylum seekers]. That light has now been extinguished.” (Martin Nilsson, Flera kritiska röster efter regeringens migrationsbesked, SVERIGESRADIO (Nov. 24, 2015).)
Representatives of member parties of the Alliance, on the other hand, have criticized the government, claiming that the measures will not be successful in diverting asylum seekers to other EU countries. (Id.)
Prepared by Elin Hofverberg, Foreign Law Research Consultant, under the supervision of Luis Acosta, Chief, Foreign, Comparative, and International Law Division II.