Right-wing Swedish party leader wants to tighten immigration law 'further than Denmark'

Right-wing Swedish party leader wants to tighten immigration law 'further than Denmark'
Jimmie Åkesson said that his party, Sweden Democrats, will lead the line on migration policies in the Scandinavian country.

3 min read
13 May, 2021
Jimmie Åkesson said his party is no longer seen as an outcast. [Getty]

The leader of Sweden's leading nationalist party said this week he will follow Denmark's lead and push for harsher immigration laws.

Jimmie Akesson said Sweden Democrats will lead the debate on migration policies in Sweden and push policies to the right.

He said Sweden will mimic Copenhagen's right-wing immigration policies despite international uproar after Denmark cancelled the residencies of scores of Syrian refugees.

"Denmark was the same way as Sweden, and then it just changed overnight, and that will happen in Sweden too," he said to an interview with The Local.

"We actually in Sweden need a stricter policy than Denmark, because we have much bigger problems. I don’t think it’s possible to just decrease immigration to Danish levels anymore. We need to take it further."

It follows a decision by Denmark to order Syrian refugees to return to Damascus, despite the dangers they would face from conscription, security forces, and the war.

NGOs have voiced their strong opposition to the policy.

In Sweden, three centre-right parties have voted in favour of aligning with the Sweden Democrats - a party that has been criticised for having members with neo-Nazi backgrounds - despite historically refusing to co-operate with the group.

Read more: Fears for Syrian refugees in Denmark after government classifies Damascus as 'safe area'

"Our goal is to be a part of the government. But we also realise that maybe that’s not possible this time. Maybe we have to show that we are a party that wants to take responsibility for real," Akesson said.

In April, Stockholm proposed draft legislation that would tighten immigration rules after five years of temporary measures.

The new law would see refugees granted asylum obtain only a "temporary residence permit".

"We are moving over to temporary residence permits as the main rule," Justice Minister Morgan Johansson told a press conference.

In practice, temporary residence permits have been the norm since Sweden passed a law in 2016.

Sweden took in over 160,000 asylum seekers during the 2015 migrant crisis - the highest per capita in the EU - which saw thousands flee fighting in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The temporary rules were only meant to last three years but were extended in 2019 and are set to expire in summer.

Political parties have struggled to reach an agreement on a long-term solution to the issue.

Under the draft law those designated as refugees would receive three-year residence permits. Those who do not qualify but still deemed to be in need of protection would have only 13 months.

Both could be extended if the risks persist.

After three years people would be able to apply for a permanent permit, however "special requirements" would have to be met including speaking Swedish, being able to support oneself, and have knowledge of Swedish society.

A background check for criminal activity would also be made.

"These basic rules are in line with most other EU countries," Johansson said.

In addition, they would also have to prove they could provide for family members when seeking reunification.

While many of the changes are in line with the temporary law, they represent a much more restrictive approach compared to previous legislation.

The wealthy Scandinavian country of 10.3 million was renowned for generous immigration policies and granted asylum and family reunifications to more than 400,000 people from 2010 to 2019, Migration Board statistics show.

The legislation would come into force in July if it passes parliament.

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