The right-wing government has been ruthless in its immigration reforms since coming to power in September last year...
The Swedish government on Thursday announced plans to tighten the requirements for family immigration in an attempt to make Sweden a less attractive destination for asylum seekers and reduce the number of new arrivals into the country.
Sweden's Migration Minister Maria Malmer Stenergard.
The new proposals are also backed by the right-wing populist Sweden Democrats who keep the Moderate-led coalition in a majority through a confidence-and-supply agreement. One measure would raise the age for when the government can refuse a residence permit for a spouse or common-law partner from 18 to 21 to deter young migrant couples and prevent forced marriages.
“This corresponds to the highest age limit allowed under EU law,” said Swedish Migration Minister Maria Malmer Stenergard who claimed “a paradigm shift is now being implemented in Swedish migration policy.”
The government also proposed limiting the issuance of residence permits on humanitarian grounds, which would remove the possibility of granting permits to children and certain adults in particularly distressing circumstances.
“The proposals aim to reduce the number of asylum seekers who apply to Sweden,” Sweden Democrats’ Party Secretary Bäckström Johansson told Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet.
He later told a press conference that “the government and the Sweden Democrats continue to stand up for stricter migration legislation.”
The new Swedish government, voted in last September, was a significant swing to the right and has already made great strides in tightening immigration in line with voters’ wishes. The Sweden Democrats offered its support to the government on the sole basis that immigration into the country be reduced.
“We will be a change watchdog,” Sweden Democrats MEP Charlie Weimers told U.K. media shortly after the election.
“We will make sure that action is actually taken to control migration, an area where the previous government utterly failed, and that we actually start to implement reforms to fight crime.
The government first encouraged migrants who have failed to integrate into Swedish society to leave voluntarily, ensuring them they would have the financial means to leave Sweden should they wish to back in March. However, they then introduced harder-hitting policies to bring the numbers down.
Starting in October, the minimum wage threshold required for migrants to obtain a work visa in the country will be hiked as well to further dissuade new arrivals.
Migrants wanting to come to Sweden to work will need to secure employment with a salary of 26,560 Swedish krona (€2,347.15) per month, more than double the current requirement of SEK 13,000.
Critics among the liberal benches in Stockholm’s parliament claim the plans announced on Thursday risk violating the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the European Convention on Human Rights, an argument the Swedish government rejects.
Migration Minister Maria Malmer Stenergard insists the proposals are in full compliance with international obligations and will promote greater integration among the currently divided societies that co-exist, particularly in Sweden’s major cities.