80,000 asylum seekers 'to be deported from Sweden'

80,000 asylum seekers 'to be deported from Sweden'
Tens of thousands of asylum seekers could be deported from Sweden as refugees and asylum seekers express newfound disillusionment towards the Scandinavian country.
4 min read
28 January, 2016
Refugees register for aid at a mosque in Stockholm [Getty]
Sweden could deport between 60,000 and 80,000 asylum-seekers in the coming years, Interior Minister Anders Ygeman has said.

Ygeman told newspaper Dagens Industri that since about 45 percent of asylum applications are currently being rejected, the country must prepare itself to send back tens of thousands of the 163,000 who sought shelter in Sweden last year.

"I think that it could be about 60,000 people, but it could also be up to 80,000," Ygeman was quoted as saying.

His spokesman, Victor Harju, confirmed the quote on Thursday, adding that the minister was simply applying the current approval rate to the record number of asylum-seekers that arrived in 2015.

"That rate could of course change," added Harju.

Although Germany and Sweden were the top destinations for asylum-seekers in Europe last year, disillusionment towards Sweden among asylum seekers and refugees has increased recently as beaucracy and record numbers of asylum seekers have led to long waits.

"F*** Sweden… their asylum application is long and exhausting," said Osama, who has been waiting over a year to be recognised with asylum seeker status.

Bashir is from Gaza, and is also seeking asylum in Sweden.

He also had to wait more than a year for his decision, he told The New Arab, after the case officer in charge of his case left the office on extended sick leave - and the migration board failed to reassign her workload, delaying his decision by up to six months.

According to an official from the Swedish immigration department, 668 people withdrew their asylum requests in December.

"The housing conditions, the long periods of waiting and the difficulty of reuniting with their families are among the direct causes," she told The New Arab.

The majority who withdrew their applications were Iraqis who were previously welcome in Sweden - but, following a finding that Iraq was "safe" to return to, deportations to the country have hastened.

Syrians were by far the largest number claiming asylum last year, with over 51,000 applications, according to Swedish migration board statistics.

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There appears to be a large backlog with only 20,000 decisions on Syrian asylum applications being made last year, despite previous changes to the law which aimed to ease and quicken the process for those fleeing the war-torn country.

Refugees claiming asylum reached a record number in 2015, with 162,877 claimants, out of which 35,369 were unaccompanied children.

A large proportion of deportees are likely to be "Dublin cases" according to migration board statistics, referring to law that regulates asylum applications, ensuring that refugees claim asylum in the first country of arrival in the EU area.

This is a particular issue in northern Europe, as many pass through multiple European countries in order to reach Sweden - which they perceive as having better social welfare facilities than other European countries.

"We don't know why we did not stay in Austria. Some of our friends live in better conditions there. But we followed everyone to Germany, then we were told Sweden was better," Souran told The New Arab.

In an effort to prevent refugees arriving into Sweden from from Denmark, border checks have been introduced. Previously the border here was open, allowing travellers and commuters to pass freely in the Schengen area.

Deportations are likely to be met with numerous logistical problems as many refugees hide or destroy their passports, without which home countries will not accept returnees.

This has left refugees in limbo for years with neither adequate state support nor a way to return home. 

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch said in its world report on Wednesday that Western governments were adopting counter-productive policies towards refugees in the name of security.

HRW executive director Kenneth Roth said "fear of being killed or starved" drove millions of people to flee Syria and other conflict zones in 2015, while fear of "what that influx of asylum-seekers would mean, particularly in Europe, led many governments to try to raise the gates" to block refugees.

Agencies contributed to this report.