Expectations for EU migration deal low as Swedish government all but shuts doors to migrants

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By Isabel da Silva
A youth practices basketball in Husby district, Rinkeby-Kista borough in Stockholm, Sweden, Tuesday, April 28, 2020.
A youth practices basketball in Husby district, Rinkeby-Kista borough in Stockholm, Sweden, Tuesday, April 28, 2020.   -   Copyright  Andres Kudacki/AP

Despite an imminent EU summit on migration in February, the new Swedish Council Presidency is showing no sign of wanting to help push through the bloc's long gridlocked measures on the issue.

The EU's Pact on Migration and Asylum aims to reform Europe's approach to migration, with a focus on shared responsibility and solidarity when it comes to migrants coming to the continent.

But with Stockholm, whose new right-wing government is propped up by the far-right Sweden Democrats, taking over the bloc's agenda-setting EU Council Presidency for the next six months, hopes are not high in Brussels.

Swedish Minister of Employment and Integration, Johan Pehrson, argues that more migration could push down wages.

“You have to keep it on a socially acceptable level, with decent wages...in line with the reforms we have introduced in Sweden to be sure that people work for a decent pay," he told Euronews.

Learning the language, getting information about social services, housing and employment are what migrants and refugees seek at Caritas welcoming centre in Stockholm.

The Nordic country has a long tradition of welcoming foreigners, but according to George Joseph, Managing Director at Caritas Sweden, something has changed.

"Most of the surveys show about 60% of the population was positive towards migration until a few years ago," Joseph said. 

"And then the whole thing changed, and partly also due to the negative narrative by political leadership making a story about connecting migration with all the criminality and what went wrong in the society and blaming the migrants and migration for everything."

Two million people in Sweden are foreign-born — about 20% of the population. Around 600,000 have their own businesses and contribute to the economy, according to Caritas, but now they are facing more and more distrust. 

Julius Ntobuah, a mediator at Caritas Sweden, told Euronews that he arrived from Cameroon eight years ago and has seen how the country has slowly closed its doors.

“I think we all know that with the new government in place, it’s like: "“Goodbye!” Sweden is full, we don’t want more people," he said.

"Which is unfortunate because we were a very welcoming and generous country. But as time goes by, immigration laws are becoming very tough and tougher. And, yeah, it's unfortunate. I would advise not to come because it's no longer welcoming to be here."

Despite the fact that there will be pressure from the European Parliament and some member states - namely Italy - the Swedish government does not intend to have migration as a priority. 

It is likely that any decisions taken will be during the Spanish EU Council Presidency, in the second half of the year.