The recent rise of intrastate conflict combined with the increasing ease of travel has led to the current refugee crisis in Europe. Instability in the Middle East and Northern Africa has motivated individuals to flee their home countries in search of better futures. However, as more people flee from underdeveloped to more developed countries, more pressure is put on developed countries to accommodate and integrate them.
Sweden is no exception. The Kingdom of Sweden is currently a recipient of, and home to, a significant number of migrants. Nearly 16 percent of the 9.7 million inhabitants living in Sweden are foreign-born. The foreign-born population percentage in Sweden is larger than any country in the Nordic region, including Finland (5.5%), Norway (13.8%) and Denmark (10.1%). Of these foreign-born population totals, Sweden is also home to the largest non-EU foreign-born population in the Nordics, accounting for approximately 10.2% of the total population.
Although individuals born in Finland represent the largest immigrant group, they are followed by – in order – Iraq, Poland, the Former Yugoslavia, and Iran. Of note, Syrians represent one of the fastest growing foreign-born groups; nearly 12,000 Syrians were granted asylum, constituting more than forty percent of all accepted asylum requests in 2013. In 2014, every fifth immigrant to Sweden arrived from Syria.
Of the residence permits granted to all immigrants in Sweden in 2014, 15,872 were labour migrants — individuals who require an offer of employment from a Swedish employer in order to be admitted. Approximately 42,400 fell under the category of family reunification. These are individuals who have family ties to a person already living in Sweden; they must be either a registered partner, common-law spouse or a child under the age of 18. A further 9,267 were students. Finally, nearly 33,671 of them were classified as accepted asylum seekers.
In 2014, the five main citizenships of non-EU asylum applications were from: Syria (30,750), Eritrea (11,530), Stateless (7,820), Somalia (4,870) and Afghanistan (3,105). The Swedish Migration Board made a total of 39,905 asylum application decisions in 2014, of which 30,650 resulted in a first-instance positive result. In comparison, larger EU countries such as Germany made 97,275 decisions, admitting 40,560, while France decided on 68,500 asylum applications and accepted 14,815.
As a percentage 77 percent of Sweden’s asylum decisions resulted in positive ones, while both Germany and France accepted roughly 42 percent and 22 percent respectively. In 2014, Sweden had thus granted more asylum seekers refuge relative to other major EU immigrant destinations in relative terms (minimum 10,000 applications) and only second to Germany in absolute terms.
Figures demonstrate that the number of immigrants arriving in Sweden has increased consistently every year since 2000 and especially sharply over the last few years. The number of asylum applications and residence permits granted per year has increased dramatically as well. To illustrate the extent of the increase in population, Sweden’s population grew by 0.93 percent from 2012 to 2013, representing the largest total increase in one year since 1946. The increasing number of immigrants to Sweden is unprecedented, and the rising number of immigrants and refugees since the mid-20th century continues only to grow.
Aleks Dzintars is an M.A. candidate at the Graduate School of Public Affairs at the University of Ottawa. He has written on several topics including diplomacy, security, and immigration. His primary research interest and working thesis focus on the challenges of the Swedish immigrant labour market, the Swedish government’s policies in response to amend them since 2000, and the ultimate efficacy of their programmes.
Featured Photo From Wikimedia.