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The number of asylum seekers in Sweden dropped 80% last year

Aamna Mohdin
By Aamna Mohdin

Reporter

The number of asylum seekers in Sweden has seen a dramatic drop in the last year.

Sweden is often described as Europe’s most welcoming country for refugees, but it hit a breaking point in 2015, when a record 163,000 people sought asylum there. The government was so overwhelmed that one group of asylum seekers was left to sleep outside in the cold, with authorities unable to find them accommodation.

Last year, Sweden’s deputy prime minister, Åsa Romson, broke down in tears when announcing stricter rules designed to deter refugees from coming to Sweden. Refugees in Sweden would receive temporary residence permits, she said, instead of permanent permits. The right to family reunification would also be restricted.

“It pains me that Sweden is no longer capable of receiving asylum seekers at the high level we do today,” Sweden’s prime minister, Stefan Löfven, said at another 2015 press conference. “We simply cannot do any more.”

That year, Sweden stepped up border control to stem migration flows, doubling the number of border officers patrolling the southern coast, where most refugees arrive. The popular Balkan route was effectively closed off when Hungary, Austria, Slovenia, Macedonia built fences to keep refugees out.

Now, Sweden’s migration agency expects to receive just 28,000 to 32,000 (link in Swedish) asylum applications in 2016—a drop of about 80% from last year.