Sweden poised for 150,000 asylum seekers this year

Sweden poised for 150,000 asylum seekers this year
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven expected the number of refugees to increase if the numbers hold steady.
PHOTO: Reuters

STOCKHOLM - Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said Friday up to 150,000 people could seek asylum this year in the Scandinavian country, which is struggling to find housing for the new arrivals.

"In the past seven days, 8,899 people arrived here. If things continue at this rate, more than 150,000 people will have come" by the end of the year, Lofven told reporters.

Sweden, which is home to 9.8 million people, is one of the European Union countries that has taken in the largest number of refugees as a proportion of its population size.

The Migration Board, which handles asylum requests, is expected to publish its official forecast on the number of asylum seekers for 2015 before the end of October.

"The standard (of housing) is dropping. They have to have a roof over their heads. The government has today authorised the Migrations Board to put up tents if need be," Lofven said.

The tents will be heated, Migration Minister Morgan Johansson stressed, as nighttime temperatures are now dropping to zero degrees Celsius in most parts of the country.

In the first nine months of the year, more than 73,000 people applied for asylum in Sweden. More than 81,000 sought asylum there in 2014, although only 36,000 were granted it.

On Friday, Sweden was to receive the first contingent of asylum seekers to be relocated under a much-contested European Union scheme.

The 19 Eritreans, five women and 14 men, had been rescued at sea over the past few weeks and taken to an experimental migrant screening centre or "hotspot" on Lampedusa island, where they were registered.

They were expected to arrive in northern Sweden on Friday afternoon, the Migration Board told AFP.

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