Sweden to deport up to 80,000 refugees

Figure is just half of last year’s record number of 163,000 arrivals

Sweden is likely to deport up to half of last year’s record 163,000 asylum seekers, presenting a major challenge to authorities, interior minister Anders Ygeman said.

Between 60,000 and 80,000 people will have to leave, or 45% of the applicants.

Sweden, with a population of 10m, is one of the countries that has borne the brunt of Europe’s migrant crisis.

Hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and north Africa have moved north to wealthier members of the European Union.

Germany took in an unprecedented 1.1m migrants last year.

Both countries have tightened asylum rules to stem the flow and to force other countries to share the burden.

The Swedish government fears that many people whose applications for asylum are rejected will go into hiding. Police will find them and deport them.

Of the 13,000 sent back from Sweden last year, 10,000 went voluntarily and 3,000 were forced.

Over the past few years, Sweden has rejected 45% of claims for asylum, but with last year’s record influx, the greater numbers are putting an increasing strain on immigration and police authorities.

“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,” Mr Ygeman was quoted as saying by daily newspaper Dagens Industri.

Adding to the problem is a backlog of applications.

The Migration Agency says recent arrivals will have to wait between 15 and 24 months to have their applications assessed.

Mr Ygeman said he thought chartered planes would be more widely used and hoped flights could be coordinated with Germany.

Germany deported 20,000 foreigners last year.

Sweden reversed its open-door immigration policy late last year and has introduced border controls and identity checks to stem the flow of asylum seekers.

It is also working on making it more difficult for companies to hire immigrants without proper documents.

This will decrease the incentives to stay in Sweden.

This week, the prime minister, Stefan Lofven, promised more resources for police to deal with the increased workload, because of the refugee situation.

On Tuesday, Swedish officials called for greater security at overcrowded asylum centres, a day after the fatal stabbing of an employee at a refugee centre for unaccompanied youths.

The alleged attacker was a young male residing at a centre for youngsters aged 14 to 17, in Molndal, near Gothenburg, on Sweden’s west coast.

The employee was 22-year-old Alexandra Mezher, according to Swedish media reports, whose family was originally from Lebanon.

A motive for the attack was not immediately clear.

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