Sweden, known for its liberal refugee policies and welcoming nature of asylum seekers, has had enough. It’s begun tightening its border and asylum rules in a bid to reduce the number of refugees entering the country.
The move is also seen as an effort to force other European Union (EU) countries to take in larger numbers of refugees.
The Government says its refugee reception system can no longer cope with the hordes of refugees trying to enter the country. Sweden expects 190,000 asylum seekers to reach its borders before the end of the year.
Prime Minister Stefan Lofven says, "The situation is untenable. Now, to put it bluntly, more people will have to seek asylum and get protection in other European countries." Loven says the EU needs a permanent system to evenly distribute asylum seekers across its 28 member countries.
The tightening of the borders and refugee policy is seen by many Swedes' as a blow to the country's reputation as a humanitarian superpower and a leading team player in international organizations. Vice premier Asa Romson was close to tears at the news conference today where the announcement for the tougher measures was made.
Lofven says the new rules will be in force for three years to give Sweden's asylum system "breathing space".
Sweden's Migration Agency says 80,000 asylum seekers have arrived in Sweden over the last two months and it can no longer guarantee accommodation for all. In the last week 8,000 people sought asylum in Sweden.
An agency spokesperson says some asylum seekers are being forced to "sleep rough" as the Swedish winter begins.
Under the new rules only refugees coming to Sweden under international quota agreements will be given permanent asylum. In addition, the country will introduce ID checks on all public transport into the country from the continent and tighten rules for family reunions.