Via The Guardian: Sweden slams shut its open-door policy towards refugees. Click or tap through for the full report and a couple of videos. Excerpt and then a comment:
Sweden needs “respite” from the tens of thousands of refugees knocking at its door, the government has said, announcing tough measures to deter asylum seekers in a sharp reversal of its open-door policy towards people fleeing war and persecution.
The country’s generous asylum regime would revert to the “EU minimum”, Sweden’s prime minister, Stefan Löfven, said on Tuesday, revealing that most refugees would receive only temporary residence permits from April.
Identity checks would be imposed on all modes of transport, and the right to bring families to Sweden would be severely restricted, he said.
“We are adapting Swedish legislation temporarily so that more people choose to seek asylum in other countries ... We need respite,” Löfven said, criticising the EU for failing to agree to spread refugees more evenly around the bloc.
“It pains me that Sweden is no longer capable of receiving asylum seekers at the high level we do today. We simply cannot do any more.”
The reversal in refugee policy, which follows the imposition of border controls two weeks ago, marks a policy choice the ruling red-green coalition would have considered unthinkable until asylum seekers began arriving this autumn at a rate of 10,000 a week. Official estimates suggest up to 190,000 could come to the country of 10 million people this year.
The rise in refugee numbers has caused a frantic scramble to place roofs over their heads. At the weekend refugees arriving in the southern city of Malmö were forced to sleep on the streets because no beds could be found.
The changes announced on Tuesday were particularly difficult for the Social Democrats’ junior coalition partner, the Green party, seen as the most refugee-friendly of Sweden’s main political parties. The Greens’ deputy prime minister, Åsa Romson, broke into tears as she announced the measures.
“This is a terrible decision,” she said later, admitting that the proposals would make life even more precarious for refugees. But quitting the government would have made a bad situation even worse, she added.
The leader of Sweden’s centre-right bloc, Anna Kinberg Batra, welcomed the measures but said they were not enough, and that asylum policy needed to be tightened even further. “Sweden needs to act now to bring order to an untenable situation,” she said.
The far-right Sweden Democrats claimed the government was doing too little too late to implement the party’s demands. However, a UN official in Stockholm, who asked not to be named, commented: “The last bastion of humanitarianism has fallen.”
Since our first visit in 2012, my wife and I have been back to Stockholm three more times. We've been drawn in part by the sheer beauty of the city, in part by the pleasant shock of living for a few days in a civilized country, and in part by its evident acceptance of different people.