Swedish prime minister Stefan Loefven said the country faces the greatest humanitarian challenge in its history as he expressed outrage over reports of sexual assaults perpetrated by recent immigrants to Europe.
Sweden, which has a population of 9.8m, received 163,000 asylum applications in 2015, the highest ratio per capita in the EU, Loefven told parliament.
Support for Loefven’s government has fallen to a record low, with a survey by pollster Skop last week blaming the drop on its handling of the refugee crisis.
The government was forced to U-turn on its open doors policy after being overwhelmed by migrants fleeing conflict in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Until the refugee crisis becomes sustainable again, the country needs to take steps to limit the influx, Loefven said.
“We will do what it takes to handle the short-term challenges of refugee reception, and the more long-term challenges for society,” he said.
A sustainable solution involving an equal distribution of refugees can only be found at EU level, he said.
According to Anna Kinberg Batra of the opposition Moderate Party, it could take as much as three years to process all the asylum applications that were received last year.
Yesterday’s parliamentary debate took place amid reports in the Swedish media that the local police had kept quiet about alleged sexual assaults by immigrants on young women at a festival in Stockholm.
Loefven expressed “great anger” at those reports, as well as at similar events coming out of the German city of Cologne, and called for the perpetrators to be punished.
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