What does the Swedish government really think? Does it maintain that the right of asylum is more important than everything else -- even the safety of its own people?
Gatestone Institute called Sofia Häggmark, a non-partisan official at the Department of Justice unit for migration rights. Here is the Q & A:
Should everyone get to seek asylum in Sweden, even if it leads to Sweden's undoing?
"The right of asylum is very strong. We have international rules and EU rules that say that if a person comes to an EU country, that person has a right to seek asylum."
Is it all right to say no if there are groups in your country that are being threatened by the asylum seekers -- minority populations such as Roma, Jews and Sami [Lapp]? Or that Sweden cannot afford it?
"No, if a person has grounds for asylum or risks the death penalty or torture in their home country, you cannot deny them asylum."
Is it not the Swedish government's primary task to protect Sweden and the Swedish people?
"We need to abide by international rules; we are obliged to do that. We can be dragged before the Court of Justice of the European Union if we do not allow people to seek asylum."
Which is more important – Swedish lives, or the risk that you might end up before the Court of Justice of the European Union?
"I cannot answer that question; I can only tell you what the rules are."
So you are saying that if 30 million people come here to kill us, we have no defense, we cannot stop it?
"I can only tell you that the right of asylum gives very strong protection."
But not for the Swedes?
"If a person kills someone here in Sweden, the criminal justice system handles that and tries them. We need to look at every individual asylum case."
Do you think it has ever happened at any time in the history of the world that a country cared more for the citizens of other countries than its own?
"I cannot answer that. But there is no rule that sets a limit for how many [asylum seekers] Sweden can accept."
So there is no plan for what to do when the country is full and the citizens are scared?
"No, there is not."
Do you personally think that feels okay?
"I cannot answer that. That is not my job."
If several millions of Muslims come here and implement Sharia law, then the right of asylum has effectively contributed to abolishing the democracy in our country, replacing the Swedish people and annihilating the whole concept of Sweden. Have none of you pondered these fateful issues?
"I understand your thoughts."
The measures taken by the government on January 4 were a way to stop immigration withoutcompromising the almighty "right of asylum," because only those who actually set foot on Swedish soil have the right to seek asylum. The government imposed carriers' liability for the train and ferry companies operating on the route between Denmark and Sweden, which meansthat those companies had to hire guards to refuse passage to anyone that cannot show a passport or other valid ID. This is the first time people cannot travel freely between the Nordic countries since the Nordic Passport Union was introduced in 1952.
The new identity checks have created a problem for Denmark, which was not at all keen to get stuck with all the asylum seekers headed for Sweden. Thus, Denmark introduced its own controls on the German border.
Otherwise, Denmark has chosen a different path from Sweden. Instead of preventing people from seeking asylum, the Danish Parliament adopted a new law on January 26, which includes sharp austerity measures towards asylum seekers – measures that the government hopes will discourage migrants from coming to Denmark. The new rules include:
- Shorter residence permits
- Postponement of the right to bring in relatives
- The right of the state to seize a migrant's assets to cover asylum costs
- Stricter qualifications to get permanent residency
- An easing of the process for revoking the residency of refugees
- A 10% cut in cash benefits for asylum seekers
- Asylum seekers can only keep assets worth up to a total of 10.000 Danish krone ($1500), excluding jewelry of sentimental value.
This last rule has been widely debated -- and condemned, especially in Sweden. But the truth is that Sweden has a similar law, called the Reception of Asylum Seekers Law (Mottagande av asylsökande), which was introduced in 1994. Section 15 of the law states:
"A person who has a job, or other income or private assets, and lives in an asylum house, must pay a reasonable amount as compensation to the Migration Service. When food is included in the accommodation, a reasonable compensation should also be paid."
However, Swedish authorities, with broad political agreement, ignore this law.
Even the Danish Social Democrats supported the law. In 2010, the party demanded that Europe "make way for Islam," but now it has apparently made a complete U-turn. Social Democratic Faction Chairman Henrik Sass Larsen wrote in an opinion piece in the daily, Politiken:
"We will do all we can to limit the number of non-Western refugees and immigrants to this country. That is why we have gone far – much farther – than we ever dreamed of. We do this because we do not want to sacrifice the welfare state in the name of humanism. Because the welfare state is ... the political project of the Social Democrats. It is a society built on the principles of freedom, equality and solidarity. Mass immigration – look at Sweden for example – will undermine the economic and social foundation of the welfare state."
But protecting the welfare state that generations of Swedes have built, does not seem to be a priority for the Swedish Social Democrats. Some have long claimed that the Social Democratic affinity for immigration has to do with the party's desire to fill the country with "election cattle," and fuel has now been added to that fire. Muslims most often seem to vote for the left, studies show. For example, 93% of French Muslims voted for Socialist President François Hollande, and almost90% of American Muslims voted for President Obama.
Judging by recent polls, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven will indeed need the Muslim votes in order to remain in power. The respected polling institute, Sifo, recently presented a report on party sympathies for the month of January. The Social Democrats got a pitiful 23.2% – the worst result since polling started in 1967. The party got 31% in the general election of 2014, and that was considered a rotten result.
Meanwhile, after the new border controls were implemented in January, and the number of asylum seekers arriving in Sweden decreased from a peak of over 10,000 a week, to 820 (during the third week of January), no one could tell if this was due to the border controls or the wintry weather.
Now, Minister for Home Affairs Anders Ygeman tells the Dagens Industri business paper that he has tasked the police and the Immigration Service with the deportations of up to 80,000 of the asylum seekers who arrived last year. The government plans on using chartered planes. Anders Ygeman describes the operation as a "very big challenge."
Ingrid Carlqvist is a journalist and author based in Sweden, and a Distinguished Senior Fellow of Gatestone Institute.