Sweden, known for liberal asylum policies, has seen a surge of refugees from war-torn Iraq in the last year. They are urging the European Union to help shoulder the burden by easing asylum restrictions across the bloc.
According to Migration Minister Tobias Billstrom and EU Affairs Minister Cecilia Malmstrom, Sweden currently accepts more than half of all asylum applications from Iraqis in Europe.
“Sweden can help, but we can’t help everybody,” they said in a local newspaper.
In 2006, more than 9,000 Iraqis fled their country and came to Sweden seeking shelter, a four times increase over 2005. Sweden’s immigration authority expects up to 40,000 Iraqis seeking asylum in 2007.
The Swedish center-right government has refrained from clamping down on immigration, unlike other EU countries. Between 80% and 90% of Iraqi asylum requests were approved in 2006.
An estimated 79,200 Iraqis call Sweden their home, making them the second only to Finnish immigrants. Many Iraqis fled to Sweden during the 90’s as well. Current refugees like Sweden because many of their relatives are there and because of the generous refugee policies.
Sweden is also calling for aid to Iraq’s neighboring countries Syria, Jordan and Iran, which are receiving the largest portion of Iraqi refugees since the US-led invasion in 2003.