FECL 24 (May 1994):


The Swedish government has decided to make families with children who have applied for asylum in the country before 1 January 1993 eligible for permanent residence permit on humanitarian grounds. The measure is limited to families with children under 18 on 1 January 1993 but is applicable regardless of the origin of the applicants.

Already in June 1993, the government decided to grant asylum on humanitarian grounds to 40,000 Bosnians staying in the country. The new amnesty measure is expected to benefit some 20,000 asylum seekers, most of whom are Kosovo-Albanians.

The government took the decision on initiative of Birgit Friggebo, the minister responsible for immigration, in the wake of growing public protest against an ever more restrictive asylum practice and in particular the mass deportation of KosovoAlbanians (see CL No.19, p.3).

By implementing the two above governmen-tal decisions, Sweden is likely to grant permanent protection to a larger number of refugees from former Yugoslavia than all other Western European countries together. Indeed, most other countries have received the war refugees on a merely temporary basis and are already beginning to send back refugees to parts of former Yugoslavia deemed "safe".

Thus, Germany whose reception of approximately 400,000 asylum seekers from Yugoslavia has been widely publicised as an example of generous asylum practice, is now making concrete plans to send back refugees tolerated under the "temporary protection" scheme to Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and, at a later stage, to Bosnia.

Against this background, the Swedish move must be warmly welcomed. At the same time, however, the amnesty measures will not have any effect on general asylum law and practice. On the contrary, a recent government-sponsored expert report indicates that, as in the rest of Europe, Swedish authorities' interpretation of asylum law is becoming ever more restrictive.

Moreover, in Sweden too, there are strong calls for an asylum practice more closely linked with (restrictive) immigration policy objectives. In a memorandum on "A future policy for persons in need of protection" to the Swedish parliament, the Committee on immigrants and refugees argues against permanent residence permits as a necessary and desirable element of protection.

By enabling limited groups of asylum seekers to stay in Sweden on the basis of a one-off government amnesty rather than of a fair asylum procedure establishing their claim of persecution, the Swedish government has avoided addressing the fundamental issue of protecting the right of asylum. More than ever, asylum is becoming a matter of governmental discretion.



Sources: Press release of the Department of cultural affairs (responsible of immigration) and information to parliament, 14.4.14 (in Swedish); Press release of the Dept. of cultural affairs on the expert inquiry on asylum practice (Professor Göran Melander/Chief justice Lena Berke), 6.4.94 (in Swedish); Pro memoria "A future policy for people in need of protection", Immigrant and Refugee Committee, Björn Hammarberg/Britta Ornbrant, 29.3.94. (in Swedish).