The total number of asylum seekers in Sweden increased 11 percent during the past six months, but in the European Union as a whole figures are going down.
According to a report from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, some 84,200 people sought asylum in the EU during the first half of this year —a 21 percent drop from last years’ numbers. In Sweden, 8,871 asylum seekers came to Sweden.
The Swedish Migration Board says the increased number in Sweden is a result of the country’s law change which has made it easier for foreigners to gain residence permits.
“There are naturally exceptions, but conflicts mirror the stream of those seeking asylum,” said Lars-Gunnar Lundh, with the Migration Board, according to SVT, adding that most come from Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan.
Sweden has had trouble recently finding all of the asylum seekers homes because of its 2005 amnesty for asylum seekers.
Asylum seekers who were originally denied the right to stay in Sweden, but who ended up staying thanks to the amnesty, needed to be find somewhere to live. Many municipalities refused to take them in last month.
“We didn’t know what to do with them,” said Sven-Ove Johansson, an expert on new arrivals with the Swedish Integration Board to The Local.
“It is a complicated system,” Johansson said. “The municipalities can say no to us, but they can’t say no to an asylum seeker who shows up in their municipality and says, ‘Here I am.’”
When asked if the Integration Board supported foreigners to go and find their own housing in Sweden, Johansson said it was good for immigrants to find lodgings on their own initiative.”
“We are not encouraging them, but we are not discouraging them,” he said, adding that it is against the law for municipalities to turn people away.
He said Sweden has already given permits to 15,300 refugees this year who have found housing around the country.
He said if an asylum seeker is denied the right to remain but stays anyway, Sweden will eventually give him a permit rather than sending him back to a country where he might not be wanted.
“Their own countries, like Iran and Somalia, don’t want them back, so here they are sitting in Sweden,” Johansson said. “Only about 20 percent have their applications accepted, but those who are denied because they have bad cases will probably get a permit if they don’t want to leave.”