Sweden to reject 70,000 applications for asylum
Sweden's government could reject almost half the people who sought asylum within its borders last year as the government looks into the feasibility of sending them back.
The Swedish Migration Agency estimates that about 70,000 of the record 163,000 asylum seekers who crossed its borders last year will probably have their applications rejected, based on the 55pc approval ratio of applications in recent years.
The government has asked several agencies to come up with a plan on how to increase deportations, Migration Minister Morgan Johansson told reporters in parliament yesterday.
Returning those who are rejected will be a "big task that will be spread out during a number of years", he said.
The plan is to return people either to their home countries or to the country through which they first applied for asylum under the so-called Dublin Regulation, according to the Migration Agency.
The country last year accepted 90pc of the Syrian asylum seekers who crossed its borders.
Application rejections mostly affected migrants from Albania and Kosovo.
If people don't leave voluntarily, it becomes a matter for the police, said Guna Graufelds, a spokeswoman for the agency.
Police may charter planes to send back groups of asylum seekers whose applications were rejected, she said.
Sweden, together with Germany, made headlines at the beginning of the refugee crisis created by the war in Syria by opening its borders to hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers in a policy that stood out in Europe for its generosity. Since then, Sweden has been forced to backtrack after the cost of absorbing so many people threatened budget goals and overwhelmed the country's resources.
The government of Prime Minister Stefan Loefven, who has seen his popularity among voters decline, has blamed neighbouring Denmark and others for failing to share the burden, given the scale of the humanitarian crisis facing Europe.
Sweden this year introduced controls at the Danish border to cope with the influx.
In order to make its asylum laws more similar to the rest of Europe, Sweden is also preparing to tighten its rules, for example by giving only temporary residency rather than permanent permits.
A proposal will be presented in March, and the law is expected to be voted on in parliament in May or June, according to Johansson.
'Dagens Industri' reported earlier that as many as 80,000 asylum seekers could be turned away, citing Home Affairs Minister Anders Ygeman.