Sweden cuts 2017 refugee forecast further

Sweden cuts 2017 refugee forecast further
A Swedish Migration Agency office. Photo: Susanne Lindholm/TT
More asylum seekers are expected to come to Sweden in 2017 compared to the year before, but the number has been reduced from a previous estimation, according to the Swedish Migration Agency's (Migrationsverket) latest forecast.

The authority expects 34,700 people to seek asylum this year. That's a decrease compared to its previous estimation for 2017 of 36,700 which was carried out last autumn, but would still mean more requests than those registered in the country during 2016 when 29,000 asylum applications were submitted.

“The biggest challenge for Migrationsverket is that during this year we need to make more decisions on applications than ever before across all categories. We now have an intake system which is working to reduce the volume, which means we can get control of and make more decisions for more people to get an answer in their cases,” Migrationsverket acting deputy chief of operations Veronika Lindstrand Kant noted.

There is still potential for the forecast to change further however, with the agency saying that it could range from as little as 25,000 requests to as many as 45,000 depending on developments.

“Above all that's because of the agreement between the EU and Turkey (which means refugees are returned from Greece to Turkey unless they want to apply for asylum in the EU country). Will it continue? There's a lot of uncertainty there. On top of that, we also expect our border controls to expire in November, and that border controls will only be granted for two years,” Lindstrand Kant added.

Sweden recently extended its temporary border controls in the south of the country until May 2017. They were introduced during the height of the 2015 refugee crisis.

Sweden's Migration Minister Morgan Johansson said he is not particularly worried however, and does not consider the agreement with Turkey or the continuation of border controls to be as great a cause of uncertainty as the Migration Agency suggests.

“The EU will not allow the kind of uncontrolled rush which we saw in the autumn of 2015 for example. That would be politically very difficult to accept for the EU member states,” he told news agency TT.

What Johansson and the Migration Agency do agree on however is the challenge of finding housing for new arrivals. The agency estimates that it needs an additional 1.3 billion kronor ($146, 596) to be able to “comply with the applicable laws and regulations” by allocating the relevant allowances to asylum seekers, municipalities, and local government, as well as provide housing for them.