Sweden Wants EU to Punish Member States Who Don’t Take Refugees


Migrants register at the central mosque in Stockholm.

Photographer: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP via Getty Images

The European country that last year was among the top recipients of refugees relative to its population wants the European Union to punish other member states that fail to honor their burden-sharing pledges.

Sweden introduced ID checks at its borders in January after taking in some 163,000 asylum seekers from war-torn countries like Syria and Iraq. On a per capita basis, Sweden accepted almost three times as many applications as Germany, whose population is eight times bigger.

"The EU is big enough to take in many more refugees than it has actually taken, but it’s impossible if only a few countries are doing so," Sweden’s minister for EU affairs, Ann Linde, said in an interview in Montreal on Thursday.

Sweden’s criticism comes amid a debate over new EU rules designed to address the uneven distribution of migrants following the biggest influx since World War II. EU governments have yet to live up to their commitment to share some 160,000 people who arrived in the Mediterranean countries of Italy and Greece. Current rules stipulate that refugees must claim asylum in the first European country they reach. Slovakia and Hungary in the east are among the most vocal opponents to the idea of redistributing migrants.

“There should be some kind of mechanism to ensure that countries implement their decisions,” Linde said.

The European Commission in May proposed a more permanent system for relocating refugees across the EU should a gateway country be overwhelmed by arrivals. But the proposal was met with skepticism by some member states and negotiations over the draft law are likely to go on for a year or longer. A final EU accord would also need the support of the European Parliament.

"There has to be some kind of reaction" to those who "make an agreement and then don’t implement it," the minister said. "There are proposals going around for discussion," she said when asked whether slapping a fine on violators would be justified.

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