As Sweden prepares to go to the polls on Sunday, that country’s immigration and asylum policies are creating debate in Denmark.
With Sweden taking in a record number of asylum seekers – 340,000 are expected over the next four years – Danish politicians are warning of the negative impact the influx could have on Denmark.
“The many Syrians who are coming to Sweden as refugees will become Swedish citizens in a matter of a few years. And with the agreements we have among the Nordic nations, there is nothing to stop them from then immediately moving to Denmark – without a Danish residence permit – and receiving welfare benefits from day one. It is a big danger,” Søren Espersen of the Danish People’s Party told Berlingske.
Espersen called on the Danish government to express “Danish concerns about the completely excessive immigration underway in Sweden” to their Swedish colleagues.
Justice Minister Karen Hækkerup said that Denmark is indeed prepared to act if a stream of new Swedish citizens creates a form of “welfare tourism” in Denmark.
“I think I should be careful about what I, as a member of the Danish government, think about Sweden’s immigration policies, but I will say that the government would never allow something similar to happen here at home,” she told Berlingske.
“It’s not as if the coffers are just sitting wide open for Swedes who come to Denmark and if it appears that it is becoming a type of welfare tourism, we will of course have to talk to the Swedes and find a solution,” Hækkerup added.
The Danish stance on Sweden’s immigration approach wasn’t exactly greeted warmly on the other side of the Øresund, where immigration has been a hot issue
in the run-up to the elections.
Sweden’s migration minister, Tobias Billström, accused Denmark of not doing its part to accommodate asylum seekers.
“I thought that all members states in the EU had agreed to ensure safety for those who need it. Everyone can see what sort of situation families from Syria and Iraq are fleeing from. Therefore I’d like to see Denmark change its asylum policies and display more solidarity,” he told Berlingske.
“To be honest, I was really puzzled when I saw Hækkerup’s comments warning against the Swedish asylum policies. All EU countries, including Denmark, should take a hard look at the the situation in Syria and Iraq and ask themselves if they can consciously reject asylum seekers from there,” he added.
Denmark accepted 3,889 refugees in 2013 while Sweden opened its doors to more than 28,000. Sweden is expected to take in as many as 100,000 refugees in 2014