Sweden close to agreement on unaccompanied minor asylum seekers

Thousands of people who arrived in Sweden before November 2015 as unaccompanied minors seeking asylum are likely to get another chance to stay in the country after months of uncertainty.

Catherine Edwards
Catherine Edwards NewsMavens, Sweden
Source: Sydsvenskan
Sweden close to agreement on unaccompanied minor asylum seekers - NewsMavens
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Why this story matters:

In 2015, around 31,000 under-18-year-olds applied for asylum in Sweden as part of a huge influx of migrants, the volume of which eventually forced the country to tighten its asylum laws. In November 2015, a rule change introduced medical age assessments for minors, and also stipulated that only temporary residence permits would be offered to new asylum seekers.

This was a dramatic turnaround in Swedish policy towards asylum seekers (the then-deputy prime minister was visibly upset and on the verge of tears during the announcement).

 It also plunged many of the minors who were awaiting a decision into a sort of limbo.

Now a proposal offering many minors a chance to stay, even those whose asylum applications were rejected and who are now facing deportation, looks likely to get the go-ahead from parliament.

The proposal would offer around 9,000 people a temporary residence permit in order to finish their studies in Sweden. These are people who arrived as minors but turned 18 while their case was awaiting processing, due to delays at the Swedish Migration Agency.

On Tuesday, Center Party leader Annie Lööf leader said her party would back the proposal, despite criticizing the draft law as being "really badly put together" and saying Sweden needed to move beyond temporary legislation regarding its migration policy. She added: "The human consequences are altogether too great for us to stop this proposal."   

Details from the story:

  • Around 31,000 unaccompanied minors applied for asylum in 2015 before new, tougher rules were introduced in November.
  • The government proposal will affect around 9,000 people, giving them a chance to stay in Sweden even if they have been facing deportation.
  • In order to qualify, the applicants must have submitted their first asylum application before November 24, 2015 and before turning 18. They must also be in full-time education and have been waiting for a decision from Sweden's Migration Agency for at least 15 months.
  • The proposal was first announced by the government last November, after several months of debate between the Green Party and Social Democrats (both part of the governing coalition) on how to treat the issue of unaccompanied minors. It was formally submitted to parliament last week.
  • Several groups have criticized Sweden's approach towards unaccompanied minors seeking asylum, including the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights who last year called on the country to "move beyond emergency mode". 
  • If passed by parliament, this draft law will likely come into force from June 1.
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