Having already outlined migration policy in Great Britain, today we want to take a look to the north. The Swedish government chairs the European Council for the first half of this year, so it was at the forefront of the asylum compromise that the Council passed at ministerial level last week. We will report on this in the coming days, but today we take a look at the measures the conservative government, supported by the far-right Sweden Democrats, has taken in its migration policy.
In Sweden, a conservative alliance of Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson’s Moderate Coalition Party has governed since last autumn together with the Liberals and the Christian Democrats. The minority government is tolerated by the right-wing populist Sweden Democrats. In mid-October, the four parties presented the so-called Tidö agreement, which lays down the main features of the government’s plans. The proposals led to an outcry among human rights activists and refugee workers. However, it initially remained unclear whether and, if so, how much of this could be realized. Now, however, the government is tackling increasingly controversial measures in migration and refugee policy. The minimum income is coming, and it has now become known that the government is working on a draft law that would force teachers, health workers and social workers to report illegal migrants.
In terms of asylum law, Sweden already underwent a paradigm shift after the large influx of people in 2016, while it was still under a social-democratic government. “Sweden then reached the EU minimum in protecting people,” a spokesman for the Swedish Center for Refugee Law says, an organization that advises asylum seekers. On the basis of the Tidö agreement, the government is planning further tightening of accommodation and asylum procedures, for example. For example, asylum seekers should no longer automatically be provided with a lawyer in the first instance, and permanent residence status, which refugees in Sweden usually receive after five years, should be abolished for them. Children are also to be accommodated in deportation centers and people with a permanent right of residence are also to be brought to leave the country. The change from one residence status to another is also to be abolished, and the number of quota refugees who come into the country via a UNHCR procedure is to be reduced. Deportations are to be increased and in the future also be possible on the basis of “antisocial behavior”, even if it remains unclear what exactly that means. A conviction would then no longer be necessary.
In the future, work permits for immigrants will be linked to a minimum income. The corresponding law was only presented in Parliament last month. Accordingly, an income of at least 26,560 crowns (approx. 2,300 euros) per month will be a prerequisite. The new regulation is expected to come into effect in October. It serves to stop immigration into low-wage jobs, said the interior minister, and several thousand people are affected. On the one hand, the project was weakened compared to the original plans (a minimum income of 30,000 crowns was planned), on the other hand, a minimum salary should now also be a prerequisite for the renewal of work permits.
In many ways, Sweden sees Denmark as a role model. There, the primary goal is the departure of refugees, not their integration. Asylum seekers are not allowed to work during their procedure, even recognized refugees no longer receive a permanent residence permit, and their status is checked again and again. Many Syrians are currently losing protection there because they come from areas that the government has classified as safe. In addition, stricter laws apply in so-called ghetto districts.
Sweden has a huge problem with gang crime. There are shootings and explosions almost every day. Often the offenders are minors. The Tidö agreement also contains a number of projects in this regard. Many believe that migration is the cause of crime. In the future, for example, foreigners are to be deported even if they are only connected to a criminal organization or one that endangers “Swedish values”, gang members are to receive double penalties, sentence reductions for young people are to be abolished and much more. The planned measures do not lead to more integration, but to more exclusion, says the Stockholm Center for Refugee Law: “One of the main goals of the Tidö agreement is to improve integration, but at the same time it contains measures that restrict the rights of asylum seekers and people further away from society.” Due to the measures, a deterioration in integration is likely, insofar as this is problematic, since most people ultimately stay in the country and the conflicts in the countries of origin would not go away. With many points in the Tidö agreement, it is still not known what will actually be decided in the end, but a rejection of migrants can always be read. According to the critics, many statements from government circles in Sweden are more reminiscent of politics in Poland and Hungary.
Sweden threatens to become a country with different rights for different groups, a society of us and theirs, in which foreigners are primarily perceived as a security threat.
All publishing rights and copyrights reserved to MENA Research and Study Center.