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Sweden and Norway tighten asylum rules

Sweden and Norway have tightened border controls and asylum rules as a means to reduce the number of asylum seekers. The move is also an effort to force other European Union member states to take in more refugees.

Sweden made the announcement on Tuesday pointing to the projected 190,000 asylum seekers expected to reach its border this year.

Neighboring Norway made the same call to strengthen its borders later on Tuesday, with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg saying, "The Swedes are strengthening their borders so it is important for us to control our borders as well."

"It is both a security measure and also a way to control how many (people) come on the ferries," she added.

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven told reporters: "It pains me to say that Sweden can no longer take in asylum seekers at the same high level…Sweden needs some breathing room."

He added, "It is untenable. Now, to put it bluntly, more people will have to seek asylum and get protection in other European countries."

New rules

The left-wing Swedish government introduced several new measures to reduce the number of asylum seekers, including

reinstating border controls in November.

However, those measures have been seen as ineffective, as Sweden experiences the most migrant arrivals per capita in the EU.

The government's new measures include temporary residency permits. Before the new measures, all those granted asylum had been given permanent residency.

Tightened rules for family reunifications, medical checks to determine the age of youths seeking asylum and ID checks on public transport will also be introduced.

Lofven said the new rules would be maintained for three years.

Lofven said further that the EU needs a permanent system to evenly distribute asylum seekers across the 28-member bloc, which has not been agreed upon by some member states.

smm/bw (Reuters, AFP)

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