Translated by Nicolai Sennels from Danish: “Sweden is Changing”, Weekendavisen May 5th 2012 (not online). The perfect storm:
Immigration. Sweden’s population now numbers 9.5 million people. It was only eight years ago that the figure reached 9 million. Much of the population growth is due to family reunification for refugees who have obtained asylum. The population in Sweden has skyrocketed in recent years.
Last week the Swedish population topped 9.5 million. Since August 2004, the population increased by 500,000. At the same time there has been a drastic demographic change in the composition of the population.
The birth surplus for the period 2004-11 was, according National Swedish bureau of Statistics, Statistika CentralbyrÃ¥n, approx. 137,000, of which mothers born in non-Western countries accounted for about 22,000 births. The rest of the increase in population is mainly due to immigration from non-Western countries, asylum seekers and family reunification from countries like Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia. Labour migration represents only a small part of the increase in this period. Working immigrants from around the world apart from the north were about 50,000 from 2004-2011.
The number of permits to one of three forms of refugee status from 2004-11 amounted to almost 50,000, while the number of family reunifications was around 250,000. And the growth continues, especially from Somalia. This is because of a ruling in January from the Swedish Migration Court. The ruling means that it has become much easier for family members who find it difficult to prove their identity to be reunited with someone who is already in Sweden and has been granted asylum.
The decision affects not only Somalis, but in Somalia thousands of family members are already waiting to travel to Sweden, an article published by the Parliament states. The ruling thus annulled a decision a few years ago that put an end to family reunification for people whose identity could not be documented.
A passport can be difficult to obtain in the collapsed state of Somalia, and therefore the Migration Court reversed its decision in January. (Incidentally, according to the immigration authorities, Migrationsverket, in 2009 only 16 percent of asylum seekers carried any identity papers, and in only five percent of the cases was it a passport).
The expected large number of family reunifications has made the Swedish Migration Board apply for additional funding for administration, etc. This year it is applying for an additional 170 million Swedish kroner (24 million USD). It has applied for 341 million dollars for 2013-2014 (49 million USD). Migrationsverket total costs in 2012, including accommodation and food in the pre-asylum phase, is approx. 9 billion Swedish kroner (1.4 billion USD). In its latest Migrationsverket estimates, due to the new ruling of the Migration Court the number of family reunions in 2012 will increase by 18,500 and by 12,000 in 2013.
The total estimate for 2012 is 59,500 family reunions and 53,000 in 2013, which amounts to 112,500 family reunions 2012-2013.
Migrationsverket also expects, moreover, that the number of asylum seekers will increase as a consequence of the new rules. Migrationsverket expects that the milder requirements for identity papers will motivate more asylum seekers to go to Sweden because they know that it is possible for the rest of the family to follow if they are granted permanent residency.
Migrationsverket has increased its estimate of expected asylum seekers by 2,000. It now forecasts that 31,000 people will seek asylum in Sweden, both in 2012 and 2013, which amounts to 62,000 in two years. In 2011 29,600 people applied for asylum in Sweden, which makes Sweden (with its relatively small population) the fifth most popular country in the world among asylum seekers.
Altogether Migrationsverket expects approx. 175,000 new asylum seekers and family reunifications in the years 2012-2013. It is only a small proportion who are granted asylum.
A special phenomenon is the large number of unaccompanied refugee children travelling to Sweden. In 2010 and 2011 Sweden received a total of 5,050 young people who came to Europe. The largest group came from Afghanistan, followed by Somalia and Iraq. Britain, which receives the second largest number of unaccompanied refugee children, had 2,641 applicants, while Belgium had 1,941.
The figure last year was 2,657 in Sweden, of whom most were granted asylum. Subsequently they will be able to get family members to Sweden by using the family reunification rules.
In Denmark, approx. 160 unaccompanied children and adolescents under 18 years old were granted residence in 2011. In Finland, 150 unaccompanied children applied for asylum, which was half as many as in 2010.
Migrationsverket’s expectation is that in 2012, 3,200 unaccompanied children and adolescents will arrive in Sweden, compared to, as mentioned, 2,657 in 2011.
The many unaccompanied children, mostly boys aged 15 to – allegedly – 17 years old, are causing problems for the Minister of Migration Tobias BillstrÃ¶m (Conservative), because some municipalities have begun to refuse to receive more, although they are quite well paid from the state for each child they receive. The Minister of Migration therefore threatens to force municipalities to accept the young asylum seekers.
If they are under 18 years old, they have the right to live in a special home for young people, and they are entitled to a guardian. Many, however, seem to be over 18 years old, but Migrationverket’s employees more or less have to take at face value what the unaccompanied children and young people themselves are saying.
Tobias BillstrÃ¶m is now investigating how Denmark, Norway and Finland handle the problems with determining asylum seekers’ age. He is quoted as saying that he would like to have joint Nordic procedures to determine the age of young asylum seekers. Denmark uses X-ray photos of the wrist and control of dental status. In 2009, 120 such studies were conducted in Denmark, and in 73 percent of the cases, the conclusion was that the person were older than 17 years. About the same figure is found in Norway and Finland in the cases where there has been age-studies.
According to a recent report by National Audit Office, Migrationsverket pays up to 16,000 Swedish kroner (2,300 USD) per person for each day an unaccompanied child asylum seeker lives in Sweden, including food and staffing, to municipalities that accept children.
The normal price is between 3,000 and 6,000 kroner (440 – 880 USD) per day, but last year Sigtuna municipality sent a bill for an average of 15,800 dollars per person per day. The high figure is partly because the municipality had committed to rental housing that was not used.
As mentioned, BillstrÃ¶m has announced that he will force municipalities that refuse to take any more unaccompanied children and adolescents. Even if they are unaccompanied, a significant proportion also have friends or families in Sweden.
General SÃ¶ren HÃ¤ggroth from the Government Offices in Stockholm wrote last year in Dagens Nyheter that 55 percent of unaccompanied children who came sought residence in MalmÃ¶, and that the total cost is around two billion kroner per year (291 million USD).
In the previously mentioned report by the National Audit Office, it was also alleged that two thirds of all cases of citizenship administered by Migrationsverket department in NorrkÃ¶ping are decided by a single caseworker. The National Audit Office believes that this practice creates a risk of “undue influence and criminal act”, meaning that the decisions can be influenced by threats to the individual employee or bribes. This must be taken into account, since it is not possible to revoke a granted citizenship.
The report therefore recommends that there be quality control of the cases.
Immigration puts a lot of financial pressure on the Swedish welfare model. It takes several years before the immigrants who are granted asylum or family reunification to become employed and self-supporting. The employment rate for persons born in Sweden is 68%, while it is 54% for people born outside Europe.
Employment rates are lowest for women, and Minister of Integration Erik Ullenhaug from the liberal People’s Party announced last month that he plans to change the rules for maternity leave, the so-called parental insurance entitling to a total of 480 days leave during the child’s first eight years of life.
These rules are enforced in a way that allows families coming to Sweden bringing children to be entitled to 480 days leave per child under eight years. Since the families often have several children, it may take several years before these women go to a language school, let alone take a job. Erik Ullenhaug believe that this is part of the cause of women’s poor integration. Yet he has not made any specific proposal, but he’s already been accused of discrimination for introducing special rules for immigrants.
It is remarkable that the great migration – more than any other Western country, measured in relation to its population – does not provoke a debate in Sweden about how much the country can accept and support, while ensuring a proper integration. Overall, Migrationsverket expects approx. 175,000 new asylum seekers and family reunifications in the two years 2012-13. Although not all are granted asylum, it will not take many years before Sweden has a population of more than 10 million people.
But even weak attempts to discuss these developments could easily cause the author to be called ‘xenophobic’ or ‘racist ‘. Even though the immigration critical party, The Sweden Democrats, came into parliament in 2010, this tendency has not changed, although they try to raise the issue. Quite the contrary. Recently, the party was not allowed to have a debate in parliament about the large influx of unaccompanied asylum seekers.
In April 2012, a member of parliament from the Center Party, Staffan Danielsson, spoke out in Svenska Dagbladet:
‘This issue is seldom discussed by the established parties. Of course I am for an open and generous immigration and refugee policy in Sweden, but I think it is legitimate to discuss why unaccompanied refugees into Europe so often choose to come to Sweden. We know that our resources for receiving them are constrained, and if developments in Afghanistan or Somalia go in the wrong direction, the influx could rise significantly.
I am convinced that it is important to have a calm and objective dialogue on the questions that I ask, and it will ultimately benefit the continued commitment to a high acceptance of refugee reception, rather than the opposite,’ said Staffan Danielsson.
Last week also, the newspaper Dagens Nyheter gave space for a debate article by Danielsson.
The result was that Danielson was heavily criticized, including by his own party’s spokesman in migration issues, Fredrik Federley. Federley said that if you had to discuss unaccompanied children, it should not include a discussion why there are so many who come to Sweden, but why there are not even more coming to other countries in Europe.
The Swedish media treats the issue very discreetly. The media are eager to avoid negative publicity on refugee / immigrant issues, according to the latest issue of the Swedish Journalists Federation magazine.
In this particular issue, several articles discuss how to avoid so-called net-hatred on media websites. If there is a possibility to comment on articles, there is a widespread tendency for people to discuss immigration issues. Therefore, many magazines and newspapers remove the ability to comment on stories related to the topic.