As of September 3rd 2013, any Syrian refugee who applies for asylum in Sweden will be granted a residence permit. Since that decision taken by the Swedish immigration authority Migrationsverket, there have been over 5,500 Syrians who have successfully claimed asylum based on that ruling.
As of September 2013, Sweden had granted asylum to 14,700 Syrians in total. As we approach the end of the year the Swedish migration agency has processed 56,000 asylum cases, and that number is expected to rise to around 69,000 cases in 2014. Although these latter figures are for the total number of asylum seekers in Sweden – not just Syrians – two of the three largest factors affecting asylee numbers are EU decisions on the settlement of Syrian refugees throughout Europe and the developments of the conflict in Syria.
Unfortunately based on the fact that the residence permits being granted are permanent, the Swedish government’s estimation that the conflict will end soon appears to be grim.
So far Sweden is the only European country to offer such a policy, and members of the current government state they hope other EU countries follow suit, based both on political as well as moral grounds. However when it comes to the related issue of immigration, as most of Europe continues to debate austerity measures that have come with tough economic times, political motivations surrounding immigration have invariably waned, demonstrated most obviously by the recent comments of the UK Prime Minister David Cameron on proposed EU migrant benefit cuts and additional tightening of intra-European immigration.
Still the UK is widely seen as another favorable location to apply for asylum, where there was a recent demonstration in the port of Calais across the channel in early October where several Syrian refugees threatened to jump off the roof of a ferry terminal unless they were granted passage to the UK where they believed they could gain asylum. However the British migration authorities currently have the policy to consider each asylum application on a case-by-case basis, in contrast to Sweden’s recent announcement.
Sweden has long held a moral high ground among European nations – and indeed the world – for accepting refugees. In 2006 following three years of American-led boots on the ground in Iraq, Sweden accepted 9,000 Iraqi refugees. And that year Södertälje, a quaint city to the south of Stockholm, accepted twice as many Iraqi refugees as the entire United States.
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