As Sweden has long enjoyed the reputation of having some of Europe's most liberal policies toward immigration, asylum and family integration, the share of residents with a foreign background now exceeds a quarter of the population.
The Swedish Migration Committee has submitted a new report with proposals on the country's future immigration policy, national broadcaster SVT reported.
The committee's 600-page report includes a mixed bag of 26 proposals and features the strengthening of some measures as well as the relaxing of others. For instance, it wants time-limited residence permits instead of permanent ones to be the basic option for those seeking asylum. In addition, it wants to introduce livelihood and language requirements for those who seek a permanent residence permit in Sweden. However, so-called “quota refugees” will be exempted from these requirements.
At the same time, the committee wants to return to the previous arrangements where immigrants without valid grounds for asylum can still be granted a residence permit in the event of “extremely painful circumstances”.
The chairman of the committee, Court of Appeal President Thomas Rolén, stressed that the committee itself is in two minds about its proposals.
“I want to emphasise that behind each individual proposal there is a majority, but there is no majority behind the whole,” Rolén told national broadcaster SVT.
While accepting the proposals, Social Democrat Justice Minister Morgan Johansson stressed that the number of new asylum seekers who have been granted a residence permit has fallen sharply since the chaos year of 2015.
“Still, I see, when you see how the discussion is conducted, that it is still the case that people, especially from the right, are alarmed about mass immigration,” Johansson said, as quoted by the news outlet Fria Tider. He also rejected the notion of “population replacement”, which according to him is anchored in a “right-wing extremist” ideology.
The idea of population replacement suggests that ethnic Swedes will eventually become a minority in their own country due to low birth rates among the native population and mass immigration, due to either short-sighted policy decisions or deliberate measures taken by diversity-obsessed authorities. Several forecasts have projected that this will happen between 2040 and 2065, depending on the rate of immigration and demographic trends. This idea is vehemently challenged by left-leaning news outlets and think tanks (such as Expo) as anything from an “urban legend” to a “racist myth”.
The share of foreign-background population in once-homogeneous Sweden has been steadily rising in recent decades. According to Statistics Sweden, 26 percent of those registered in the country have a foreign background, which can be compared with 15 percent in 2000, two decades ago. According to an older way of counting, where having at least one foreign-born parent is counted as a foreign background, the proportion is 33 percent. Among young children, the non-ethnic-Swedish proportion is even higher.
The new proposals have sparked criticism from both right and left. The opposition Moderate Party, which since its reversal from the Fredrik Reinfelt-era “open hearts” policy, has been pushing for a tougher line on immigration, slammed the proposals as insufficient.
“It is a very narrow product where important proposals are missing”, its migration policy spokeswoman Maria Malmer Stenegard said, citing volume targets and requirements to take part in Swedish welfare.
The national-conservative Sweden Democrats' party leader Jimmie Åkesson stressed that the state should encourage the repatriation of immigrants.
“More than who come here should leave the country”, Åkesson said.
The Green Party, the ruling Social Democrats' important sidekick, was not satisfied either, suggesting that the proposal fails to take into account family rights and children's rights.
All in all, this paves the way for tough negotiations in the Swedish parliament this autumn.
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