Sweden Wants to Cap Refugee Inflows as Wave Seen Continuing

  • Migration agency lowers forecast to 70,000-140,000 this year
  • Government will seek to aim for low end, or below forecast

Sweden’s government said it won’t hesitate to cap inflows of refugees as the nation’s Migration Agency predicted the number of asylum seekers could once again top 100,000 this year even after a border crackdown.

The agency on Thursday predicted 70,000 to 140,000 people will seek asylum in Sweden this year, down from a forecast from October of 100,000 to 170,000, according to a statement on Thursday. For 2017, it foresees 55,000 to 105,000 asylum seekers.

The top range of the forecast “can’t happen,” Migration Minister Morgan Johansson said at a press conference. “Long before we end up in that kind of situation, we would need to take measures. We need to steer toward the lowest scenario, preferably below.”

He declined to say what further measures they could take.

Refugee flows to Sweden, which last year welcomed more asylum seekers per capita than any other European Union nation, have slowed after it introduced temporary border controls and requested identification controls on buses, trains and ferries. In the past seven days, 737 arrived, mainly from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, compared with a peak of more than 10,000 a week in November. The country also warned last month almost half of the 160,000 that arrived last year could see their petition for asylum rejected.

The wave of refugees is putting a strain on public finances and resources. The Migration Agency on Thursday warned that the number of people who will need to get permanent housing in a municipality will “increase significantly,” to 160,000 people during 2016 and 2017.

The development will place great demands on municipalities in terms of housing and education, it said. About a third of asylum seekers are of school age and there are currently 180,000 people in the agency’s system, of which 100,000 are housed in asylum homes, which is a temporary form of housing.

“Both the EU and individual countries have now acted -- the EU through a cooperation agreement with Turkey and individual countries by introducing measures in order to get fewer asylum seekers to Europe,” the agency said. “The uncertainty in the forecasts is still very big.”

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