Sweden’s deputy prime minister broke down in tears as her country stopped accepting all refugees

Doors are closing.
Doors are closing.
Image: Reuters/Stoyan Nenov
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This post has been corrected.

Sweden’s deputy prime minister, Åsa Romson, was reduced to tears when it was announced the country’s famous “open door” policy on refugees was coming to an end.

The Nordic country has a long and proud history of being one of the most welcoming countries for refugees. It takes in the more refugees per capita than any other Western country. But the government, which expects up to 190,000 asylum seekers to reach its borders this year, can no longer cope.

“This is a terrible decision,” said Romson, who hails from the Greens, who said the new measures would make things harder for refugees. But Romson added she didn’t want to quit the government over the issue.

Sweden’s prime minister, Stefan Löfven, said the country needs a “respite” in a press conference on Tuesday (Nov 25). “It pains me that Sweden is no longer capable of receiving asylum seekers at the high level we do today,” he said. “We simply cannot do any more.”

The Swedish government announced a number of measures in hopes of deterring refugees from coming Sweden. Before the crisis, refugees were given permanent residency, but they will now receive temporary residence permits. ID checks will be imposed on all public transport, and the right to family reunification will be restricted. Sweden has also stepped up its border control, doubling the amount of officers patrolling the southern coast, where most refugees arrive.

Sweden follows a number of countries that have also clamped down on immigration in the last few weeks. Canada has delayed plans to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of the year, and will for now take 10,000 refugees by the end of 2015. The government has committed to taking another 15,000 refugees from Syria by the end of February. The government will no longer let in straight single men on their own.

In the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks, a number of US governors have slammed their doors to refugees, citing security concerns. Though the US has admitted 1,854 Syrian refugees (paywall) since 2012, the US House of Representatives voted to tighten asylum laws to make it even harder for refugees to come to America.

But strangely, it is the victim of the latest attacks, France, that has shown the least fear of migrants. French president François Hollande announced his country would still take in the 30,000 refugees to which it had agreed.

“Some people say the tragic events of the last few days have sown doubts in their minds,” he said recently. “Life should resume fully,” Hollande added, to a standing ovation. “France should remain as it is. Our duty is to carry on our lives.”

An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that Canada planned to resettle 20,000 Syrian refugees; when it actually planned to resettle 25,000