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Sweden sees migrant influx slowing to 60,000 this year


Migrants wait to cross the Slovenian-Austrian border in Gornja Radgona last September. Photo: Jure Makovec/AFP

Migrants wait to cross the Slovenian-Austrian border in Gornja Radgona last September. Photo: Jure Makovec/AFP<br />

Sweden said Wednesday it expected around 60,000 asylum seekers in 2016, far fewer than the 100,000 forecast in February, as border controls across Europe make it harder for migrants to reach the Scandinavian country.

“We see every day how people are making their way from Turkey to Greece or across the sea to Italy, but they’re not making it to Sweden right now,” the Migration Agency’s operative chief Mikael Ribbenvik said in a statement.

Last year, Sweden received 163,000 asylum applications, making it one of the EU states with the highest proportion of asylum seekers per capita.

The agency said it was now expecting anywhere between 40,000 and 100,000 migrants to arrive this year, but was working with a “planning scenario” of 60,000.

In February, its 2016 forecast was for between 70,000 and 140,000, with a planning scenario of 100,000.

The influx to Sweden has plummeted since January 4, when Stockholm introduced systematic photo identification checks on train, bus and ferry passengers entering via Denmark.

At a peak in October, Sweden received around 10,000 asylum requests a week, compared to around 500 now.

“What’s making it so hard for asylum seekers to travel through Europe is primarily that the western Balkan route is completely closed, and the EU’s new agreement with Turkey,” Ribbenvik said, referring to a deal to return migrants arriving on Greek shores to Turkey.

He said the forecast of 60,000 was based on the probability that Europe would open up “somewhat” in the second half of 2016, “and that asylum seekers will probably choose other routes than the western Balkan route.”

The agency noted that while the acute strain on Sweden’s capacities — primarily overcrowded asylum housing centres — had subsided since last autumn, “municipalities, authorities and the rest of society face immense challenges ahead” to cope with asylum seekers allowed to stay in Sweden as well as those whose applications are rejected and may be appealed.

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