Sweden and Finland plan to deport thousands of migrants

A group of migrants cross snow covered road in northern Macedonia, near the border with Serbia, on their way north to more prosperous European Union countries, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016. Denmark and Sweden tightened their borders on Monday in efforts to stem the flow of migrants entering Scandinavia from Germany. (AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski)

A group of migrants cross snow covered road in northern Macedonia, near the border with Serbia, on their way north to more prosperous European Union countries, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016. Denmark and Sweden tightened their borders on Monday in efforts to stem the flow of migrants entering Scandinavia from Germany. (AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski)

Finland joined Sweden on Thursday in announcing plans to deport tens of thousands of failed asylum seekers in a bid to contain the migrant crisis.

As at least 31 more people died attempting to reach the European Union, the two Nordic countries are both struggling to cope with an influx of refugees and migrants fleeing misery in the Middle East and elsewhere.

The Finnish government expects to deport around two thirds of the 32,000 asylum seekers that arrived in 2015, Paivi Nerg, administrative director of the interior ministry, told AFP.

In neighbouring Sweden, Interior Minister Anders Ygeman said on Wednesday that the government is planning over several years to deport up to 80,000 people whose asylum applications are set to be rejected. This makes up around half of the 163,000 asylum requests received in 2015.

Swedish Migration Minister Morgan Johansson said authorities faced a difficult task in deporting such large numbers, but insisted failed asylum seekers had to return home.

“Otherwise we would basically have free immigration and we can’t manage that,” he told news agency TT.

More than one million people travelled to Europe in 2015 — the majority of them refugees fleeing conflict in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan — in the continent’s worst migration crisis since World War II.

Nearly 4,000 people died trying to reach Europe by sea last year, according to the International Organization for Migration.

As Europe struggles to respond to the unprecedented influx, a top Dutch politician said the Netherlands was working with some EU members on a plan to send migrants back to Turkish soil.

The proposal would see asylum granted to up to 250,000 others already hosted by Turkey, Diederik Samsom said.

But rights group Amnesty International blasted the plan, saying it was “fundamentally flawed since it would hinge on illegally returning asylum seekers and refugees”.

In Britain, the government said it would take in an unspecified number of migrant children who have been separated from their parents by conflict in Syria and elsewhere.

A large number of boats packed with migrants are still arriving on Greek beaches every day, undeterred by Europe’s wintry conditions.

With the influx showing little sign of abating, many countries — including Austria, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and France — have tightened asylum rules in a bid to discourage new arrivals.

 

 

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