12 February 2016

Swedish Migration Agency's forecast characterised by great uncertainty

After a historic autumn resulting in many political changes in Sweden and the EU, the Swedish Migration Agency has now presented a new forecast. In October great uncertainty was reported in the alternative estimates, and this uncertainty persists in February.

"It is hardly possible to talk about a forecast any longer," says Anders Danielsson, Director-General of the Swedish Migration Agency. The future will be based entirely on political decisions and action at EU level and in Sweden.

When the Swedish Migration Agency presented its latest forecast, in October, the uncertain estimates were based on various scenarios as to whether and how the EU and individual member countries would act. Now both the EU and individual countries have acted. The EU through an agreement on cooperation with Turkey and individual countries through tougher measures introduced in order to have fewer asylum seekers coming to Europe. Despite this, the uncertainty in the future estimates is still very great.

The UNHCR assumes that about one million people will make their way to Europe in 2016. The drivers making people leave their countries of origin have not declined and are instead greater than ever. It is not possible to rule out a development similar to that in autumn 2015, with a sharp increase in the number of asylum-seekers in Europe and Sweden. At the same time, tighter measures are being introduced to reduce the number of asylum-seekers, and future political decisions will have a crucial effect on the number of asylum-seekers coming to Sweden.

Three alternative estimates

The February forecast presents three alternative estimates of the number of asylum-seekers coming to Sweden this year, and none of them is more likely than the others to occur.

The higher alternative is 140,000 asylum-seekers, including 27,000 unaccompanied minors. The basis for this is that control measures taken by Turkey, the EU and EU member countries will be effective to begin with, but that their effectiveness will then decline rapidly. The lower alternative is 70,000 asylum-seekers, including 12,000 unaccompanied minors. This assumes that the control measures taken will have a clear effect throughout the year, and that further measures will be introduced when, starting in May, the number of asylum-seekers begins to rise again. An intermediate alternative of 100,000 asylum-seekers, including 18,000 unaccompanied minors, has been used as the basis for the descriptions of services in the forecast.

The costs of the Swedish Migration Agency's services are estimated to increase by SEK 420 million during the year, compared with the October forecast. Overall, the estimate is that the Swedish Migration Agency will need SEK 918 million more than in the previous forecast for all appropriations.

Great shortage of accommodation

The Swedish Migration Agency currently has just over 180,000 people registered in its reception system, and around 100,000 of them are living in some form of asylum-seeker accommodation. In the first part of 2016 some 27,000 accommodation places will need to be replaced since they are temporary or of poor quality.

The accommodation situation will be very strained at the start of the year and runs a great risk of becoming acute again in the autumn, despite lower requirements in the procurement of asylum-seeker accommodation. If there is a great increase in the number of asylum-seekers after the summer, the Swedish Migration Agency will need assistance from other parties to solve the situation.

Longer processing times

The Swedish Migration Agency makes the assessment that processing times for several case categories will get longer. The number of open cases concerning family ties is expected to increase during the year.

During the year a new system for handling asylum cases, which already sorts these cases into different categories at the time of the application, will come into force.  This will make the asylum process more efficient, but it will take some time for the effects to be seen. The more than 150,000 cases already awaiting investigation at the Swedish Migration Agency mean that processing times will get longer than they are today before they get shorter.

Social challenges in the long term

There will be a substantial increase in the number of people needing a residence in a municipality in the coming years – about 160,000 people spread over 2016 and 2017. These are people who have been granted protection and their family members. This will make great demands on the municipalities in terms of housing provision and schooling and on the role of the Swedish Employment Service in providing introduction services.