Sweden is one of the most popular refugee destinations, with up to 190,000 first-time asylum applications expected to be made in 2015. During the second quarter of 2015, Sweden received the third highest number of first-time asylum applications relative to the size of the country’s population.
According to the UNHCR, 142,207 refugees resided in Sweden in 2014. In 2014, 74,980 first-time asylum applications were made, an increase from 54,255 in 2013 (Eurostat data). In 2014, the top three citizenships of asylum applicants were from Syria (30,750), Eritrea (11,530) and stateless (7,820).
The government’s approach
The government has been welcoming, but local municipalities struggle to provide accommodation for refugees. Financial concerns were raised on the local level, which led the government to substantially increase compensation provided to local municipalities for each settled refugee.
Following the large inflow, Sweden is to ask the EU to join the relocation scheme so that up to 54,000 people seeking refuge in Sweden could be relocated to other Member States.
There is a broad consensus on immigration among seven out of eight political parties represented in the Swedish parliament. However, the popularity of the anti-immigration party, Sweden Democrats, rose from 5.7 per cent in 2010 to 26.5 per cent in a recent poll. Other parties seem to also hint towards tougher views on immigration. There is a debate related to immigration to Sweden, with policy proposals made by political parties regarding permits, benefits, labour market access etc.
Refugees in host communities
Solidarity marches took place. Swedes make donations of money, clothes, and other necessary items which are sent to asylum processing centres in Sweden and to the Mediterranean. There are numerous initiatives of solidarity. Associations and religious organisations arrange collections of funds and goods. Volunteers offer language lessons as well as sports and social activities.
From January to October 2015, there were incidents of fire in 10 refugee centres in Sweden. Police suspects these were arson attacks.
The immigration debate is present in the media. Recently, the Swedish newspapers criticised the annual budget for underestimating funds for immigration and integration in light of increasing number of arrivals.
In spring 2015, 28 per cent of Swedes declared that immigration is one of the main issues facing the country. This was a sharp increase of 4 per cent since autumn 2014.
An Ipsos poll showed support for immigration among Swedes, along the concerns about integration of immigrants.