Swedish government pushes ahead with new migration bill

The Swedish government has put forward a bill to change the country’s migration laws, including a language requirement for permanent residence.

Swedish government pushes ahead with new migration bill
Swedish government ministers Märta Stenevi and Morgan Johansson. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

The proposal follows the setting up of a parliamentary Migration Committee, which suggested a series of legislative changes in a 600-page report last year, as The Local wrote about at the time.

A bill is now being sent to the Council on Legislation, which is the body that checks draft bills before they can be submitted to parliament, said Justice Minister Morgan Johansson at a press conference with Equality Minister Märta Stenevi on Thursday.

The aim is to create a comprehensive new law that can replace the current temporary law, when it expires in summer. This law tightened rules for immigrants when it was introduced in the wake of the 2015 refugee crisis, and is mainly designed to target asylum seekers, but there are also changes that affect other categories of immigrants.

The bill proposes that refugees would be given temporary three-year residence permits, and people receiving protection on other grounds would be given permits of 13 months. Temporary residence permits have been the default in Sweden since 2016, but before that permanent residence permits were the norm since 1984, according to Johansson.

After three years it would be possible to apply for a permanent residence permit, but this would only be granted if certain requirements are met, such as being able to support oneself and having sufficient Swedish language and civics skills. The latter requirement is new, and comes as Sweden is also planning tightened citizenship requirements.

Johansson said that although the new bill is meant to come into force this summer – if approved by parliament – the language and civics requirement needed more work to decide how it would work in practice, and would not be implemented immediately.

The government’s bill is based on the Migration Committee’s suggestions and is understood to be mostly in line with them, but at the time of writing the latest version of the bill was not yet publicly available. You can read the Migration Committee’s report in Swedish here, and here’s The Local’s round-up in English of the key points at the time.

The Social Democrats’ coalition partner, the Green Party, also pushed through rules that mean that people who are not eligible for asylum may in some cases be allowed to stay in Sweden on compassionate grounds, such as if they have lived in the country for a long time or have children that have become part of Swedish society. Stenevi said these rules were designed to avoid “unreasonable consequences”.

“This is an exception and does not apply to people who are here illegally,” she added.

Member comments

  1. But Sweden has better first fire 90% of its Migrationsverket’s employees and replace them with good people. It is a more relevant change than anything else because the organization has clearly shifted towards fascists who are gaining votes instead of being banned and imprisoned in Sweden!

    1. I can’t agree more. Most case officers act like autocrats and commit crimes tantamount to violation of fundamental human rights. The way they play with the lives of the innocent people should be stopped in the first place.

      1. Hi Rajib,

        How have the case officers violated your human rights, or those of someone you know?

        Do Swedes not, in your view, have the right to determine who moves to their country and is subsequently granted Swedish residency and then citizenship?

        Please explain.

        Thank you.

  2. These sound like very small yet reasonable changes in many respects, and that most people still have a very reasonable path into Sweden.

  3. As a immigrant who is in Sweden on working permit, and working hard to be part of the society, I agree with new proposals.
    There is a lot of abusers of the system, where they just doing nothing and expect from the state to get everything on the platter. While other people are working hard and providig to society, paying taxes, etc.

    Some people deserve to be deported or their temporary visas revoked/doublechecked.

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Sweden Elects: I’ve got election pork coming out my ears this week

The Local's editor Emma Löfgren rounds up this week's key talking points of the Swedish election campaign.

Sweden Elects: I've got election pork coming out my ears this week

There’s an old Swedish Word of the Day in The Local’s archives: valfläsk (literally “election pork”, or pork barrel politics).

This week, there’s been enough of it to feed a Swedish town large enough for both a Biltema and a Dressmann store and still have half the pig left!

You could say it started the week before last, when the Social Democrats’ Immigration Minister Anders Ygeman floated a test balloon loaded with a 50-percent cap on non-Nordic residents in troubled neighbourhoods (it went down among the other parties like it was made out of lead).

Then last week, the Liberals threw their hat in the ring by proposing mandatory language assessments for two-year-olds who don’t attend preschool, and then make preschool mandatory for the toddlers whose Swedish isn’t deemed good enough. This, they said, was meant to help integration in areas where bilingual children don’t speak Swedish at home.

“Studies show that early preschool benefits children whose mothers are low-educated and whose parents are born abroad,” their manifesto read.

Liberal leader Johan Pehrson’s statement that in the most extreme cases – where parents clearly refuse to let their children learn Swedish – led to a social media storm that conjured up images of crying toddlers being taken into care for failing to distinguish between en and ett when quizzed.

For any parents of multilingual children (who know better than most how language works in early childhood – I’m raising a multilingual baby myself, but I’ve only just started so if you have any tips, do let me know!), I should stress that the proposal is less extreme than how it was first presented.

This is typical for valfläsk, by the way. Take something that’s perfectly obvious and hard to argue against (of course mixed neighbourhoods and children being encouraged to learn languages are generally good things) but dial it up a notch, insert something immigration-related, promise to get tough on whatever it is you want to get tough on, and propose either something that already exists or would be near-impossible to implement.

Then the Stockholm branch of the conservative Moderates proposed that entire school classes in vulnerable areas should be screened for ADHD through optional rapid tests, in order to increase the comparably lower rate of medication among foreign-born children and prevent them from falling into a life of crime.

“Detached from reality,” said their Social Democrat rival and pointed out that the partly Moderate-run region was planning to cut the number of psychiatric care clinics for young people.

The Christian Democrats, never ones to be outdone, wanted to chemically castrate sex offenders, give police access to healthcare biobanks, and let police take DNA samples from people stopped in internal border checks.

But while many of the election pledges that get tossed around this close to the election (less than a month to go, now!) tend to range from the radical to the ridiculous and are unlikely to ever be implemented, they’re still worth paying attention to. They give us an indication of the direction the parties want to take, and could well reappear in a more watered-down format later on during the governmental cycle.

They may also become part of post-election negotiations, where even small parties hold key cards as the larger parties fight to cobble together viable government coalitions.

They also say something about Sweden and the direction of the political sphere as a whole, where the parties are currently racing to outdo each other on who can be toughest on immigration and law and order.

The Local’s reporter Becky Waterton has gone through all the parties’ election pledges to see how they specifically would affect foreign residents in Sweden – in case you’ve missed her article, click here to read it.

Also in the world of Swedish politics, a new poll by SVT and Novus has the Moderates and the Sweden Democrats neck and neck, Moderate leader Ulf Kristersson promised lower taxes in his summer speech and Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson tougher sentences on gang criminals in hers, and Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson suggested changing the name of the Swedish Prison and Probation Service (Kriminalvården) to the Penal Office (Straffverket).

Sweden Elects is a new weekly column by Editor Emma Löfgren looking at the big talking points and issues in the Swedish election race. Members of The Local Sweden can sign up to receive the column plus several extra features as a newsletter in their email inbox each week. Just click on this “newsletters” option or visit the menu bar.