Sweden expects to expel up to 80,000 asylum seekers
(AFP) Sweden said it expects to expel up to 80,000 migrants whose asylum requests will likely be rejected, as another 24 people including children drowned off Greece Thursday in the latest tragedy in the Mediterranean.
As the continent grapples with efforts to stem a record flow of migrants, Swedish Interior Minister Anders Ygeman said the mass expulsions of people who arrived in the Scandinavian country last year would require the use of specially chartered aircraft.
The deportations would be staggered over several years, Ygeman said.
"We are talking about 60,000 people, but the number could climb to 80,000," he told Swedish media.
Rejected applicants to return home
The country of 9.8 million is among the EU states with the highest proportion of refugees per capita.
Of the 58,800 asylum requests handled by Swedish migration authorities last year, 55 percent were accepted. Many of those requests were however submitted in 2014, before the large migrant flow began.
Ygeman said he used the 55 percent figure to estimate that around half of the 163,000 asylum requests received in 2015 would likely be rejected.
Migration Minister Morgan Johansson said authorities faced a difficult task in deporting such a large number of migrants, but insisted the rejected applicants would have to return home.
"Otherwise we would basically have free immigration and we can't manage that," he told news agency TT.
However, 7,590 people who had their asylum applications rejected last year went underground, and for the period 2010-2015 their number totalled 40,345, according to the migration agency.
More than one million people travelled to Europe last year--the majority of them refugees fleeing conflict in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan--in the continent's worst migration crisis since World War II.
Most cross by boat from Turkey to Greece and the United Nations said Thursday more than 50,000 people have turned up on the EU member's beaches so far this year, while 200 people died making the dangerous journey.
Reflecting the mounting tensions, Brussels on Wednesday blasted Greece's handling of the crisis and warned it could face border controls with the EU's passport-free Schengen zone if it does not protect the bloc's frontiers.
Concerns have grown over conditions in Sweden's overcrowded asylum facilities, however, and officials have called for greater security after an employee at a refugee centre for unaccompanied youths was stabbed to death earlier this week.
A 15-year-old male allegedly attacked the 22-year-old employee, Alexandra Mezher, at the centre in Molndal on Sweden's west coast.
Her death has led to questions about conditions inside some centres, with too few adults and employees to care for the children, many traumatised by war.
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