Sweden to take in quota refugees again after coronavirus pause

Sweden to take in quota refugees again after coronavirus pause
A Migration Agency office in Sweden. Photo: Susanne Lindholm / TT
Since April, Sweden's reception of so-called quota refugees has been on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the country has now announced it will start taking in refugees again.

'Quota refugees' is the term given to refugees (people in need of protection who cannot live in their home countries) who have arrived in the EU, and are sent to different countries according to a quota system to avoid certain countries being overwhelmed by high numbers of arrivals.

Sweden was set to receive 5,000 refugees through the system this year, but had only accepted around 1,300 when the system was suspended since early on in the European coronavirus outbreak.

But the UN's refugee agency (UNHCR) and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) resumed work on the quota system in June, and Sweden has now determined that it can start accepting refugees again, after discussions between the Migration Agency and Public Health Agency.

“We will carry out the transfers gradually and in close dialogue with the relevant municipalities and regions. In the first stage, it will be about twenty people,” said Oskar Ekblad, department head at the Swedish Migration Agency.

Measures to protect the health of the refugees concerned and reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus have been put in place. Only refugees who are symptom-free and do not belong to a risk group will travel, and only to municipalities with a low spread of infection.

The goal is for the first refugees to arrive in August.

“This is about people who are already in a very vulnerable situation which in due to the spread of Covid-19 has worsened. It's important that they get to come here,” said Ekblad. “We also see that more countries are easing their travel restrictions, which makes it easier for this group to come to Sweden. Therefore, it feels important to get started with this important humanitarian work.”

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