Sweden Has A Problem Sending Asylum Seekers Back

The Swedish authorities are under pressure to increase asylum seekers who have been rejected. The inefficient system that sees many asylum seekers being turned away by the country is hindering this effort.

Few countries are more welcoming than Sweden when it comes to accepting asylum seekers ( except for Germany). The country received the highest number of asylum applications per capita in Europe during the 2015/16 “migrant crisis”.

Sweden has been a popular destination for asylum seekers for many years. Since 2000, more than 750,000 asylum requests were filed, with the majority of them coming from Syria, Somalians, and Eritreans.

Some 750,000 of these people were not granted asylum. In the last two decades, around 300,000.00 asylum applications were rejected. The decision was made to send those individuals back to their home country.

These returns have become quite political in the post-migrant crisis landscape. Previous governments have tried to convince Swedes that they don’t have open borders. Anders Ygeman, the Social Democrats’ then-interior minister, declared in 2016 that he would deport as many as 80,000 asylum seeker. Since then, migrant return has risen to the top of the policy agenda (as it did in other EU countries).

Some rejected asylum seekers refuse to return home. Some 30% of the estimated 20,000 asylum seekers who are asked to leave Sweden each year refuse and flee into the shadows. This is the report of the Swedish Migration Studies Committee Delmi. It focuses on the implementation of return policies. The English version of this report will soon be made available

Inconsistencies in Swedish migration policies are the root of returns problems. In a context of greater returns, there are conflicting goals to manage returns humanely while giving due process to asylum applications.

In practice, this means that a return policy emphasizes asylum seekers who have been rejected leaving on their own, often with financial assistance rather than being deported. This also allows those who are rejected to appeal or amend their application (say, from asylum to work permit), making it less concrete and giving them the possibility of being allowed to remain in Sweden.

Henrik Malm Lindberg, the lead author of the Delmi report, says these conflicting priorities make the task of return “harder for street-level-bureaucrats, and the incentives less clear for the returnees.”

Another question is what government agency should be responsible for returning the refugees. This responsibility is in theory shared by the Migration Agency and police. Lindberg says that in practice, the Migration Agency tends not to be concerned with the enforcement of claims but rather the processing of them. While the police are more focused on combating crime and tracking down returnees, Lindberg believes this is the case.

Lindberg says that “return” is a ‘odd business at both agencies and it’s not in line with their core mission. Lindberg also said that the staff prefer to work with people who are more like them.

The sidelining of the return business has a significant impact on street-level workers who work with asylum seekers. People charged with assisting migrants in their departure from the country find themselves caught between multiple objectives. They are often under-resourced and subject to intense media scrutiny and public scrutiny.

Then there are the asylum seekers who have been rejected. Although estimates vary as to the number of irregular or undocumented migrants in Sweden, a 2017 report by the Swedish government suggests that there are between 20,000 and 50,000. This includes those who have been rejected as asylum seekers, as well as others undocumented migrants like those who have overstayed visas or never applied for a visa.

These people live in what is called a ” paralel society“, which is outside of the official state structure. They are not eligible for most of the social welfare or protections that “official” Swedish residents have access to. These people are often in low-paid jobs such as construction and hospitality.

Lindberg points out that there are informal markets for housing and care in these parallel societies. However, for an asylum seeker rejected by the Swedish government, this can lead to a lack of permanent integration. This is without mentioning the potential for labour-exploitation or exposures to criminal networks that living in such a parallel society can bring.

This last point, criminal activity in parallel societies, has its own influence on Swedish migration politics. Fears of increasing crime rates and gang violence continue to fuel calls for more effective deportations.

Where do we go from here? Linberg says that the solution lies in the parliament with its competing factions. “It is not a secret that within the coalition Government of Sweden,” Linberg said. “The Green Party generally opposes policies with more’repressive’ elements. This means that sometimes proposals put on the table by the Ministry of Justice are stopped or watered-down.

He says that if people pay attention to the issue, there will be political motivation to address it.

“Many parties representing the majority electorate are actively proposing new ideas on how to make the returns policy more efficient Because return issues are becoming more important among policy makers and media attention, I would expect that parties who support more efficient policies will somehow pass new legislation in this direction.”

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