November 24, 2015 / 2:31 PM / in 2 years

Sweden tightens asylum rules in bid to force EU action

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Sweden will introduce tighter border controls and asylum rules, in a bid to reduce the number of asylum seekers reaching the country and force other EU states to take in more refugees, the government said on Tuesday.

Refugees sleep outside the entrance of the Swedish Migration Agency's arrival center for asylum seekers at Jagersro in Malmo, Sweden, November 20, 2015. REUTERS/Stig-Ake Jonsson/TT News Agency

Sweden expects up to 190,000 asylum seekers to reach its borders this year and says its reception system cannot cope.

“The situation is untenable,” Prime Minister Stefan Lofven told a news conference. “Now, to put it bluntly, more people will have to seek asylum and get protection in other European countries.”

Neighboring Norway said later on Tuesday it will also strengthen border controls..

The move by Stockholm is a huge blow to Swedes’ view of their country as a humanitarian superpower and a team player in international organizations. Vice premier Asa Romson of the Green Party was close to tears at the news conference as she announced the tougher measures.

Lofven said the new rules would be in force for three years and that Sweden’s asylum system needed “breathing space”.

In Oslo, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg said her country was also tightening controls.

“The Swedes are strengthening their borders so it is important for us to control our borders as well. It is both a security measure and also a way to control how many (people) comes on the ferries,” she told broadcaster TV2.

Around 80,000 asylum seekers have arrived in Sweden over the last two months and the Migration Agency said earlier in November it could no longer guarantee accommodation for all.

Some have been forced to sleep rough just as the freezing Swedish winter begins to bite.

Sweden introduced its first large-scale border controls in decades in November to slow the migrant flow, but the move has had only a limited effect.

In the last seven days, around 8,000 people sought asylum in Sweden, down from around 10,000 a week earlier this month.

“It is clear that migration politics in the EU need to be completely reviewed,” Lofven said.

He said the EU needed a permanent system to evenly distribute asylum seekers across the 28-member bloc - something some member states have declined to support.

The government said it planned to widen the number of asylum seekers receiving temporary asylum.

Until the current crisis, all those granted asylum had been given permanent residency.

Now only those arriving under international quota agreements would be given permanent asylum, under new rules probably taking effect in April.

Sweden will also introduce ID checks on public transport.

Reporting by Daniel Dickson and Simon Johnson, additional reporting by Stine Jacobsen in Oslo; editing by John Stonestreet

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