Up to 80,000 refugees who arrived in Sweden last year will be expelled from the country over the next few years, the country’s interior minister said Thursday.
Anders Ygeman, told newspaper Dagens Industri that since about 45 percent of asylum applications are currently rejected, the country must get ready to send back tens of thousands of the 163,000 who sought shelter in Sweden in 2015.
“We are talking about 60,000 people but the number could climb to 80,000,” the minister was quoted as saying by Swedish media, adding that the government had asked the police and authorities in charge of migrants to organize their expulsion.
The proposed measure was announced as Europe struggles to deal with a crisis that has seen tens of thousands of migrants, mostly fleeing conflict in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, arrive on Greek beaches.
Germany and Sweden were the top destinations for asylum-seekers in Europe last year, with Sweden receiving one of the highest amounts of refugees per capita in the European Union.
Sweden, which is home to 9.8 million people, accepted more than 160,000 asylum seekers last year.
Asylum-seekers whose applications are rejected are normally transported out of Sweden on commercial flights. But because of the large number being rejected, they would use specially chartered aircraft to take them out of the country, Ygeman explained.
The number of new arrivals has dropped sharply since Sweden’s left-wing government brought in systematic photo ID checks for travelers earlier this month.
The announcement comes after a teenage refugee was arrested on suspicion of murdering 22-year-old female employee Alexandra Mezher — whose family was originally from Lebanon — while she was trying to break up a fight between two teens at a youth refugee center in Molndal, near Gothenburg, earlier this week.
Her death has led to questions about overcrowded conditions in some centers, with too few adults and employees to look after children.
Meanwhile, in neighboring Denmark, the government this week approved legislation to seize the valuables of refugees in the hope of making the country less appealing for asylum-seekers.
While some have likened the Danish proposals to the confiscation of gold and other valuables from Jews by the Nazis during the Holocaust, the Danish government says it’s simply applying the same rules to refugees as to Danes who receive social benefits.