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Swedish government proposes tightening immigration laws

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By Euronews with AFP
Two women Walk through the town of Flen, some 100 km west of Stockholm in 2018.
Two women Walk through the town of Flen, some 100 km west of Stockholm in 2018.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Michael Probst, FILE
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Sweden's government has proposed making the country's tougher immigration laws permanent to limit the intake of refugees.

According to the bill, refugees in Sweden will now receive three-year residence permits.

But these will only be converted into permanent residence rights if immigrants meet requirements such as knowledge of the Swedish language, Swedish society, or sufficient income.

Applicants will also need to support family members when applying for family reunification, and not have committed any serious crimes.

The legislation was presented by the Social Democrats - allied with the Greens, and is intended to replace the current temporary legislation in force since 2016. Before then, permanent residence permits were the norm under Swedish law.

The measures were introduced in Sweden following the 2015 migration crisis and were extended to 2019 as political parties struggled to reach an agreement on a long-term solution. The temporary rules are set to expire this summer.

At the time, Sweden had received the largest number of refugees in the EU per capita, with over 160,000 arrivals in 2015, many of them Syrians.

Against the backdrop of the rise of the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats party, Sweden's government had made a U-turn towards a stricter policy on immigration over the past five years.

"With this draft, Sweden is no longer a magnet for asylum seekers as we were in 2014 [and] 2015," said Social Democrat Migration Minister Morgan Johansson on Thursday.

"These ground rules are in line with those of most other EU countries," he told a press conference.

The Minister added that the proposal "guarantees a long-term sustainable regulatory framework" while ensuring that the principle of time-limited residence permits "does not have disproportionate effects".

Under the law, extended temporary residence permits may also be issued to children and adults, including in "particularly distressing" circumstances under "humanitarian protection".

The legislation would come into force in July if passed by Sweden's parliament.

The leader of the Sweden Democrats, Jimmie Åkesson, has criticised the provision for unaccompanied minors.

"The Social Democrats are in the difficult position of having to satisfy both a large part of the electorate and the huge demands of the Greens for an extreme immigration policy," Åkesson said on Twitter.

"The election campaign starts earlier and earlier every time," he added, with Sweden set for parliamentary elections in September 2022.