Swedish towns strained by asylum seeker spike

Many municipalities are feeling the squeeze from a large onslaught of asylum seekers.

The Swedish National Migration Board (Migrationsverket) has been forced to rent camps and other temporary accommodations to deal with the acute housing shortage.

Many small municipalities which have been forced to take in large numbers of applicants applicants on short notice are critical of the agency’s actions.

So far this year, 22,045 applicants have sought asylum in Sweden. About 4,000 of them have declared Serbian citizenship, compared with only 421 in same period last year.

In September alone, 1,410 Serbian citizens arrived in the country. Local authorities are currently arranging acute services such as health care.

Tjörn municipality on the west coast north of Gothenburg set up temporary accommodation for 200 asylum seekers overnight last week at tourist area Tjörnbro Park. The day after the first call from the agency, 100 to 150 asylum seekers arrived.

“They called at 4.30pm in the afternoon on Tuesday and the next day, on Wednesday, the first of them arrived,” municipal executive board chairman Martin Johansen told news agency TT.

He is very critical of how the small municipality of 15,000 residents did not know anything before then from the agency.

“They must have known earlier when the agreement and negotiation were under way. We understand that they must have accommodation, but they put us in a very difficult situation. I think it is a matter of decency to get in touch so that the municipality gets a reasonable chance to prepare itself,” said Johansen.

The spike in the number of asylum seekers from the western Balkans stems from the granting of visa-free access to the EU/Schengen Area to citizens of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia.

With biometric passports, travellers from those countries can visit and stay in all EU countries for up to 90 days within a six-month period.

“It has resulted in an influx in 2010. You are not an asylum seeker until you apply for asylum,” said Caroline Henjered, head of the division for asylum reception at the agency.

In addition, a similar flood from the western Balkans arrived in Sweden before becoming emergency asylum seekers.

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Reader question: How do you meet the requirements for a sambo visa?

In Sweden, a sambo is domestic partner – someone you’re in a relationship with and live with, but to whom you aren’t married. If you, as a non-EU citizen, are in a sambo relationship with a Swedish citizen, you can apply for a residence permit on the basis of that relationship. But meeting the requirements of that permit is not always straightforward.

Reader question: How do you meet the requirements for a sambo visa?

An American reader, whose son lives with his Swedish partner, wrote to The Local with questions about the maintenance requirement her son and his partner must meet in order to qualify for a sambo resident permit.

“Their specific issue is that they meet the requirements for a stable relationship and stable housing, but have been told that qualifying for a sambo visa based on savings is unlikely,” she wrote, asking for suggestions on how to approach this issue. Her son’s partner is a student with no income, but whose savings meet maintenance requirements. But, they have been told by lawyers that Migrationsverket will likely deny the application based on the absence of the Swedish partner’s income.

How do relationships qualify for sambo status?

In order to apply for a residence permit on the basis of a sambo relationship, you and your partner must either be living together, or plan to live together as soon as the non-Swedish partner can come to Sweden. Because this reader’s son is already in Sweden as a graduate student, he can apply for a sambo permit without having to leave the country, provided that his student permit is still valid at the time the new application is submitted.

The Migration Agency notes that “you can not receive a residence permit for the reason that you want to live with a family member in Sweden before your current permit expires”. So once your valid permit is close to expiration, you can apply for a new sambo permit.

What are the maintenance requirements for a sambo permit?

The maintenance requirements for someone applying for a sambo permit fall on the Swedish partner, who must prove that they are able to support both themselves and their partner for the duration of the permit. This includes both housing and financial requirements.

In terms of residential standards that applicants must meet, they must show that they live in a home of adequate size – for two adult applicants without children, that means at least one room with a kitchen. If rented, the lease must be for at least one year.

The financial requirements are more complicated. The Swedish partner must be able to document a stable income that can support the applicant and themselves – for a sambo couple, the 2022 standard is an income of 8,520 kronor per month. This burden falls on the Swedish partner.

While the Migration Agency’s website does say that you may “fulfil the maintenance requirement (be considered able to support yourself) if you have enough money/taxable assets to support yourself, other persons in your household and the family members who are applying for a residence permit for at least two years”, it is unclear how proof of this would be documented. On a separate page detailing the various documents that can be used to prove that maintenance requirements are met, there is nothing about how to document savings that will be used to support the couple.

Can you apply on the basis of savings instead of income?

Well, this is unclear. The Migration Agency’s website does suggest that having enough money saved up to support both members of the sambo relationship is an option, but it gives no details on how to document this. It is also unclear whether applying on the basis of savings will disadvantage applicants, with preference given to applicants who can show proof of income from work.

The Local has reached out to an immigration lawyer to answer this question.