Sweden says 'no' to EU asylum relocation pledges

Sweden won’t make any pledges to relocate asylum seekers under a French-inspired EU agreement because it says there is no legal basis for it.

“It is not possible for our government to commit itself to something which does not have a clear legal base,” said Lars Danielsson, Sweden’s ambassador to the EU.

“So it’s more of a technical reason why we have not been able so far,” he said. But he also noted migration is an issue “where you can lose or win elections.”

Asked if the Swedish EU presidency intends to advocate for more relocations under the so-called EU solidarity mechanism, he did not respond.

The mechanism, launched over the summer, managed some 8,000 relocation pledges across 11 EU states plus Norway and Liechtenstein.

Only around 117 people have been relocated under the scheme. Greece made a recent appeal to have another 400 relocated, following a rescue south of Crete.

“It’s clear we need to step up on implementation,” said Ylva Johannson, the EU home affairs commissioner, earlier this week. The commission says it is working with member states to ensure that the pledges are delivered.

“We will revise standard operating procedures to speed up relocations and we will look at financial contributions being effectively matched,” she said.

But Sweden’s technical and legal worries over the scheme to divide out arriving asylum seekers on European shores is also likely mired in its domestic politics.

Its new government is a coalition of mainstream parties plus the Sweden Democrats, a nationalist party rooted in the Swedish neo-Nazi movement. Although the Sweden Democrats have no ministers, they managed to get an upper hand on policy focus and direction.

In October, the government unveiled a 63-page platform agreement, which devotes one-third to immigration and integration.

The proposals includes reducing the rights of asylum of seekers as far as legally possible, while ramping up police “stop and frisk” body searches.

It has also introduced some other novelties, including the possibility to revoke residence permits based on non-criminal social “misconduct”.

In October, Lisa Pelling, a Swedish political scientist, described these novelties as tantamount to the creation of “a morality police”.

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