STOCKHOLM – Sweden’s Interior Minister Anders Ygeman said in an interview with business daily Dagens Industri on Thursday that the country is preparing to deport up to 80,000 of last year’s record number of asylum seekers.
The announcement comes after a teenage refugee was arrested on suspicion of murdering a female employee at a youth refugee centers in Molndal, near Gothenburg, earlier this week.
A motive for the stabbing attack was not clear, but her death has led to questions about overcrowded conditions in some centers, with too few adults and employees to look after children.
A small town in southern Sweden reported that around 1,000 children who arrived there this year as refugees have gone missing from a temporary settlement, according to local authorities. The unaccompanied minors who left the town of Trelleborg are some of the thousands that came to Europe to escape the conflict that pervades the Middle East and the horrors of the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS or ISIL.
Despite receiving temporary accommodations, at least half of the 1,900 unaccompanied minors who arrived in Trelleborg left without notifying officials. “We don’t know where they are. … We don’t have the possibility to stop them leaving. We can’t wait by their beds day and night,” Agneta Sjölund, director of Trelleborg Municipality
Most of the refugees initially arrived at the town in southern Sweden on ferries from Germany and were promptly registered in the town. However, their paperwork had not yet been processed by the country’s Migration Agency, making it more difficult to track them.
Ygeman said he estimated about 60,000 to 80,000 of the 163,000 people who sought asylum last year would be expelled and either leave voluntarily or be forcibly deported.
The government fears many of those will go into hiding, Dagens Industri reported, and police are increasing their work to find and expel those.
“We have a big challenge ahead of us. We will need to use more resources for this and we must have better cooperation between authorities,” Ygeman was quoted as saying.
Germany and Sweden were the top destinations for asylum-seekers in Europe last year, with Sweden receiving one of the highest amounts of refugees per capita in the European Union.
Asylum-seekers whose applications are rejected are normally taken out of Sweden using commercial flights. But because of the large number being rejected they would use specially chartered aircraft to take them out of the country, Ygeman said.
This week, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven promised more resources for police to deal with the increased workload because of the refugee situation.
Sweden reversed its open doors-policy on immigration late last year and has introduced border controls and identification checks to stem the flow of asylum seekers.
Meanwhile, neighboring Denmark voted in favour of seizing the assets of asylum seekers to help pay for their stay while their claims are processed.
Valuables worth more than 10,000 kroner ($1,500) will be seized by police as migrants enter the country to help cover their housing and food costs.
It is part of a package of immigration reforms designed to make Denmark less appealing for asylum-seekers. However, some have likened it to the Nazis confiscating gold and other valuables from Jews during the Holocaust.
The Danish government says it’s simply applying the same rules to refugees as to Danes who receive social benefits.
By Daniel Dickson – Reuters