'We Will Never Go Back to 2015': Sweden Doesn't Believe in New Refugee Wave Despite Afghan Crisis
© AP Photo / Hoshang HashimiAfghan refugees enter Afghan territory after leaving Iran at the Islam Qala border crossing in Kohsan, Herat, west of Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, 11 November 2012.
© AP Photo / Hoshang Hashimi
In 2015, Sweden, a nation of over 10 million, saw a record 163,000 asylum seekers, mostly from the Middle East and Northern Africa, which has since posed serious integration issues and economic problems.
While Afghanistan is witnessing an acute humanitarian crisis in the wake of the return to power of the Taliban*, which has prompted hundreds of thousands of people to attempt to flee, Sweden doesn't believe in a new refugee wave to Europe.
Mikael Ribbenvik, Director General of the Swedish Migration Agency, argued in an interview with national broadcaster SVT that the situation in Afghanistan looks bleak and condemned the Taliban's attempt at a “charm offensive” in which they promised amnesty and pledged to respect women's rights.
Secretary General of UNHCR Sweden Åsa Widell mentioned that 80 percent of the recent flow of refugees are women and children.
Nevertheless, both Åsa Widell and Mikael Ribbenvik assessed that the refugee situation in Afghanistan as primarily an internal issue, where no large flows of refugees are seen across borders.
“There is no impact on Sweden right now and we do not believe that it will change in the near future,” Ribbenvik assured. “It is very difficult to get all the way here or to Europe. The fear of a repeat of what happened in 2015 produces fences and walls. Turkey is building a wall against Iran, which is the escape route for Afghans. The reaction is completely different, and Sweden is furthest away,” Ribbenvik added.
Prime Minister Stefan Löfven also weighed in on the issue, suggesting that a return to 2015, when Sweden received a record 163,000 asylum seekers in a single year, is not an option.
“One thing we must be very clear about: we will never go back to 2015. Sweden will not end up there again,” Stefan Löfven told the newspaper Dagens Nyheter.
At the same time, Justice and Migration Minister Morgan Johansson told Swedish Radio that Sweden will rescue a group of activists and feminists from Afghanistan. According to Johansson, the group of yet-unspecified size will include “human rights activists, people who have been fought for women's rights, and journalists who can be hunted down by the new government”. According to him, the concrete names will be proposed by the embassy.
The days since the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan's capital Kabul have produced dramatic images of people clutching at airstairs and chasing planes on the runway in desperate attempts to leave the country.
Furthermore, the fate of already-rejected Afghan asylum seekers became a fraught issue in Sweden amid the Taliban's conquests. In mid-July, the Swedish Migration Board issued an immediate stop for deportation to Afghanistan. There are currently about 7,000 people in Sweden with deportation decisions to Afghanistan. The issue of amnesty for all Afghans in Sweden has been raised, but among the parliamentary parties, only the Left are in favour of it.
Sweden's Afghan diaspora, which has grown in recent years, currently exceeds 70,000.
*The Taliban is a terrorist organisation banned in Russia and many other countries