Sweden mulls expulsion of rejected asylum seekers

2016-01-28 19:41
Migrant children Nor, Saleh and Hajaj Fatema from Syria sleep outside the Swedish Migration Board, in Marsta, Sweden.  (Jessica Gow, TT News Agency via AP, File)

Migrant children Nor, Saleh and Hajaj Fatema from Syria sleep outside the Swedish Migration Board, in Marsta, Sweden. (Jessica Gow, TT News Agency via AP, File)

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Stockholm - Sweden is preparing for the expulsion of up to 80,000 people whose asylum bids have been rejected, a cabinet member said on Thursday, but implementing the plan will pose a challenge.

"I think it is in any event 60 000 people, but it could be up to 80 000," Home Affairs Minister Anders Ygeman was quoted as saying in the financial daily Dagens Industri.

A record 163 000 people applied for asylum in Sweden in 2015, straining resources and capacity at reception centres and local municipalities.

In past years, about 45% of applications have been refused, resulting in the estimate Ygeman and the government was operating with.

"The big increase [in expulsions] is likely first in a year's time, when the Migration Agency makes its decisions," Ygeman said, referring to the backlog the agency was struggling with.

"We have a large challenge ahead," he said.

The large influx of people seeking refuge in Sweden has also resulted in an increase in processing times for applications. Last year, it took on average 229 days to process an asylum bid compared to 122 days in 2013, a Migration Agency spokesperson told dpa.

The agency now estimated it could take at least a year to process a bid, she said.

Police and migration authorities have been instructed to prepare the expulsions, and there is a need to increase both resources and co-operation between authorities.

Ygeman told Swedish television that the focus was on voluntary returns and on motivating people to go back to their countries of origin, "but ultimately we have to be prepared to use force," he added.

Half the bids

Authorities must also be prepared to act against employers who exploit people staying in Sweden without permission and "ensure that it doesn't pay to remain illegally," Ygeman said.

There was a significant risk that large numbers of those affected would disappear out of sight of the authorities, the government said.

Migration Agency statistics suggest that about half the 20 600 people whose bids were rejected last year had voluntarily left the country. The agency said it did not know the whereabouts of 7 590 people while police expelled about 2 600 people. 

A hurdle for implementing the expulsions was that many people lack valid identity papers, said Mikael Ribbenvik, deputy director of the Migration Agency.

"If a person lacks identity papers the home country might refuse to accept them as they are not sure the person is a citizen," he told Swedish Radio.

Patrik Engstrom, head of the border police, told the daily that more police officers will be needed.

The police also need to work much closer with the Migration Agency and be present when an asylum seeker is notified that his or her bid has been rejected as that is when many "disappear," he added.

To carry out the expulsions, Ygeman said, a likely option would be to charter planes, perhaps in co-operation with the European Union.

Unaccompanied minors

The Swedish Prison and Probation Service that handles the transports for the migration agency and police said it flew 3 107 failed asylum seekers out of the country in 2014, the latest year it had reliable statistics for. The agency was preparing to hire more staff to cope with a possible increased workload.

Stockholm was already in talks with Afghanistan and Morocco about the return of citizens from those countries.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani visited Sweden in December and agreed with Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven to open talks on repatriating Afghan nationals whose asylum bids have been rejected.

Most of the asylum seekers in 2015 were from Syria and Afghanistan, with the next largest group coming from Iraq, according to the Migration Agency.

Close to 35 400 bids were made by unaccompanied minors, the majority of whom were Afghans.

Read more on:    sweden  |  migrants

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