Stochholm: The number of asylum seekers arriving in Sweden may reach its highest in two decades because of people fleeing Syria and Iraq, whose arrival could push immigration costs close to 1 percent of GDP in a country where tension over new arrivals is rising.
The Migration Board, the government agency responsible for immigrants, said it expected between 80,000 and 105,000 asylum seekers to come to Sweden next year. That is the most since the Balkan wars of the early 1990s and up from 64,000 to 94,000 in the previous forecast, published in July.
Some 83,000 asylum seekers are expected this year. In 1992, 84,000 asylum seekers arrived, mainly from the Balkans.
Costs related to asylum seekers were expected to increase to 29 billion Swedish crowns ($3.9 billion) next year, 1 billion crowns higher than in the July forecast and around 0.7 percent of GDP, the Migration Board said. The costs include housing, cash stipends and social services for new arrivals.
"It places increased demands on the whole society in terms of preparedness and planning," the Migration Board`s deputy director general, Mikael Ribbenvik, said in a statement.
Like much of the European Union, Sweden has seen anti-immigrant politicians gain strength in recent years. After first entering parliament in 2010, the Sweden Democrats more than doubled their support to 13 percent of the vote in elections this September, when they campaigned to cut the number of asylum seekers by 90 percent.
Since the election, the Sweden Democrats have threatened to vote for the budget proposal of the main four opposition parties, which would effectively force the government to resign. They want concessions from the other parties on immigration, which was their main campaign issue, but the other parties in parliament have refused to cooperate with them.
"We owe it to our constituents to try to get as much as possible of our policies into reality," the party`s acting leader, Mattias Karlsson, said in an October interview. "We are willing to cooperate and negotiate and engage in dialogue with all parties, but no one has responded."