Sweden has announced plans to deport some 80,000 asylum-seekers whose applications have been processed and rejected.
The Scandinavian country has been overrun by migrants in recent months, and currently has the highest naturalization rate of immigrants of all European nations.
The decision to expel the migrants was announced by Sweden’s Minister of the Interior, Anders Ygeman, who explained that charter flights will be used to convey the migrants back to their home countries over the next several years.
It is “a great challenge,” Ygeman said. “We’re talking about 60-80 thousand people.”
The Minister said he had instructed police and Migrationsverket, the national immigration agency, to proceed gradually with the forced repatriation of the migrants. Sweden has begun talks to coordinate the deportations with officials from the countries of origin, including Afghanistan and Morocco.
“We’ll start with those who leave voluntarily, by creating good conditions and all possible facilities,” he said. “But we cannot limit ourselves to this, and so we have to proceed with coercive measures.”
The government expects a huge number of migrants who have been refused asylum to try to stay in Sweden illegally, hoping to fade into the “gray zone” of anonymity. Sweden has already begun studying measures to punish offenders who employ illegal workers.
About 163,000 migrants and refugees sought asylum in Sweden during 2015, the highest number per capita in all Europe. Of the 58,800 cases processed last year, 55% of the asylum requests were approved, while the remaining 45% were denied.
In 2015, 35,400 of the migrants entering Sweden were unaccompanied minors seeking asylum, five times the number of 2014.
Earlier this week Sweden became the latest in a series of European countries that have experienced tensions due to incidents of migrant-related violence. A 15-year-old immigrant was arrested near Gothenburg after having stabbed to death a 22-year-old female employee of the asylum center he frequented.
Stockholm recently re-introduced temporary border controls, joining five other EU nations in suspending the Schengen agreement due to overwhelming numbers of migrants.
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