A very strained housing situation

The rapid increase in people applying for protection from the war in Ukraine means that the Swedish Migration Agency’s housing situation is very strained.

“In this situation, our entire society needs to help out. Municipalities, NGOs and civil society in general - your support is needed,” says Mikael Ribbenvik, Director-General of the Swedish Migration Agency.

Thus far, more than two million people have fled Ukraine as a result of the war, most of them to their western and southern neighbours, but also to other European countries. According to UNHCR estimates, about four million people will soon be displaced from Ukraine.

Based on the rapidly escalating situation, on Friday the Swedish Migration Agency submitted a number of scenarios to the Swedish Government regarding how many people from Ukraine will come to Sweden between March and June of this year, and how this will affect the Swedish Migration Agency’s ability to provide housing. The scenarios are based on the UNHCR’s assessment, the size of the Ukrainian diaspora in Sweden, and our geographical proximity to Ukraine.

According to the main scenario, approximately 76,000 people from Ukraine may seek protection in Sweden between March and June.

“At the same time, we must stress that these calculations are characterised by a very high degree of uncertainty. The number may be smaller, but could also be significantly higher,” says Mikael Ribbenvik.

The lower scenario estimates 27,000 people will come to Sweden in the period of March to June, while the higher one puts this number at 212,000.

The Swedish Migration Agency has a mission and responsibility to provide housing to all protection applicants who want it. The calculations show that the Swedish Migration Agency’s housing capacity is insufficient to meet the need, even though the Swedish Migration Agency is already in the process of procuring thousands of housing places.

According to the main scenario, 40,500 housing places are needed by June. According to the more conservative scenario, 8,000 housing places will be needed, while the higher estimate puts this number at 168,000.

“We’re not expanding fast enough. We’re in a critical situation, and the whole of Sweden must chip in to help the people who are now fleeing war-torn Ukraine,” says Mikael Ribbenvik.

Many private individuals have been contacting the Swedish Migration Agency with offers of rooms and other housing places. Unfortunately, the Swedish Migration Agency does not have the possibility to place applicants in the homes of private individuals. However, an applicant can choose to live with a private individual if they make these arrangements on their own.

“The engagement of civil society is very important in this situation, but we encourage the private individuals who have been contacting us to turn to their local aid organisations, instead” Ribbenvik says.

“We’re currently working to figure out how the authorities can better harness the power of civil society’s goodwill,” he continues.

The Swedish Migration Agency has already started procuring housing places and signing supplementary agreements on existing housing. However, it will take time before the agency’s housing capacity can increase. For this reason, the measures already taken do not correspond to the need that has arisen. On 8 March, the Swedish Migration Agency submitted a request to the municipalities through the county administrative boards asking that certain counties provide their evacuation sites as temporary housing.

“We have a good dialogue with the municipalities regarding this effort,” says Mikael Ribbenvik.

On Friday, the Swedish Government tasked the Swedish Migration Agency with the construction and management of temporary housing. The county administrative boards will also inventory their existing premises, facilities and simpler accommodations that can be used as temporary housing in the short- and long-term.

The Swedish Migration Agency has formed a national authority group to streamline collaboration and improve coordination. In addition to the Swedish Migration Agency, the national group also includes the Swedish Police Authority, the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions, the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency, and the county administrative boards.

In addition to the strained housing situation, the agency is actively working to expand its registration capacity.

“We don’t currently have time to register everyone on the same day they come to us. This means we are forced to prioritise and mostly choose to register the people who are in need of housing,” says Mikael Ribbenvik.

Number of Ukrainian citizens who applied for protection from 24 February to 10 March: 5,290.

Number of applicants yesterday: 1,046.

Applicants under the Temporary Protection Directive: 2,678.