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Saturday, November 7, 2015

Sweden to Refugees: Find a Bed or Go Back to Germany… But Don’t Look for Them at IKEA

As Germany ‘downgrades’ Syrian refugee status

© Robert Nyholm / Reuters

Sweden’s migration minister warned refugees that if they don’t find their own accommodation, they will be deported back to Germany or Denmark. The news comes as Europe’s refugee influx had depleted IKEA’s stockpiles of beds.

The Swedish government told media on Friday that it will no longer be able to provide housing for refugees and migrants arriving in the country, despite Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson’s claims that the migration crisis is not putting “acute” pressure on public finances.

“Those who come here may be met by the message that we can’t arrange housing for them,” Migration Minister Morgan Johansson told reporters. “Either you’ll have to arrange it yourself, or you have to go back to Germany or Denmark again.”

Europe’s refugee crisis has been dubbed the worst since WWII, with tens of thousands of people fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and North Africa in hopes of starting a new life in Europe.

Amid the climbing number of refugees coming to Sweden, IKEA has announced that it is running extremely low on beds and mattresses in both Sweden and Germany.

“There are some shortages of bunk beds, mattresses and duvets” in several German and Swedish stores, an IKEA spokeswoman, Josefin Thorell, told Bloomberg. “If the situation persists we expect that it will be difficult to keep up and maintain sufficient supply.”

IKEA has been helping out local authorities with accommodation for refugees.

Sweden, a country of 10 million, has received 120,000 refugees and migrants so far in 2015, with another 190,000 still expected to arrive.

The Swedish Migration Agency has become so desperate that it allowed around 50 refugees to sleep on the floor in its head office on Thursday night, as it had failed to find any other accommodation for them.

Germany ‘downgrades’ Syrian refugee status

Meanwhile, Germany is also taking a step back from its welcoming policy towards refugees from Syria by striking out a law allowing the families of migrants to join them in Germany, the daily newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) reported.

The paper also revealed that the German government is scaling back on the legal protections available for newly arrived Syrians.

As a result of the policy change, each Syrian refugee can only qualify for one residence permit for up to one year, and will not have the ability to invite the rest of their immediate family to join them in Germany.

“The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees has been ordered to only grant secondary protection for refugees from Syria’s civil war,” the FAZ cited an interior ministry document as saying.

Previously, Germany had given “primary protection” to refugees, including three-year residence permits and the right of family reunification.

The German and Swedish governments have been accepting towards the refugees coming to their countries so far, but their resources are running thin.

Germany, with a population of 80 million people, may receive 1.5 million asylum seekers in this year alone. It has already accepted more asylum applications than any other European nation, with a number of critics pointing to the high number of uneducated and illiterate refugees arriving in the country.

According to the latest data cited by FAZ, in August Germany received 55,600 refugee applications from Syrians, of which 38,600 were granted residency.

Germany’s population remains divided on the government’s response to help refugees, however. The right-wing PEGIDA movement (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the Occident) has been growing in popularity, with activists taking to the streets of Dresden for anti-refugee demonstrations that are often met with counter-protesters, which often leads to clashes.

Serious consequences
While undoubtedly necessary, ending the right to family reunification may have some serious consequences. For one, it will greatly temper migrant's joy at arriving in Germany expediting the day when they become disenchanted and eventually angry. The other serious effect could be that family left behind in Syria may decide that they too have to make the perilous trip to freedom if they ever want to rejoin their husbands, sons, or fathers.