Sweden extends border controls to control flow of asylum seekers

Sweden is determined to control the influx of migrants to the country, a cabinet member said Thursday, shortly after the migration agency projected between 70,000 and 140,000 people will seek asylum this year.

The estimate of 140,000 people included 27,000 unaccompanied minors. The Migration Agency said the tally was based on measures to check flows conducted by Turkey, the European Union and its member states that "initially would be effective but then taper off."

The agency's lowest projection for 2016 was 70,000 people, and it also operated with a main scenario of 100,000 bids.

The agency's previous estimate in October projected between 140,000 and 190,000 bids.

Morgan Johansson, migration and justice minister, said Sweden "can't cope" with 140,000 new arrivals, and even 100,000 was "too high."

"We have to steer toward the lower number, 70,000 or under that which is the limit," he told reporters.

Last year, Sweden registered a record 163,000 asylum bids, straining resources and capacity at reception centres and local municipalities.

Earlier Thursday, the cabinet approved extending temporary border controls introduced in November by another 30 days to March 9.

In addition to the border controls, the government has announced plans to tighten rules for asylum seekers, for instance no longer giving permanent residency to all people granted refuge.

Sweden - a country of almost 10 million - has along with Germany and Austria been among the top destinations in Europe for people fleeing conflict in countries such as Syria and Iraq.

"The crisis is far from over, rather we are in the midst of it," Johansson said, adding that the measures in place had helped reduce some pressure on Sweden.

"If we see numbers increase again, then we will consider other measures, but I don't want to discuss them," he added.

The Migration Agency underlined there was "great uncertainty" about its latest forecast.

"It is almost not possible to make a projection. The future is completely determined by political decisions and actions at the EU level and in Sweden," Migration Agency head Anders Danielsson said.

The Migration Agency said that the UN refugee agency UNHCR has estimated 1 million people will try to enter Europe this year.

Push factors - such as the ongoing conflict in Syria - remain and have not diminished, the Swedish agency and Johansson noted.

The Migration Agency said it expected a shortage of accommodation at the beginning of the year, citing that some temporary housing will be shut down.

Processing time for asylum bids will also be long, and proposals to speed up processing were not expected to take effect until next year.

Last update: Thu, 04/02/2016 - 15:47

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