Swedish Deputy Prime Minister Asa Romson choked back tears as she and Prime Minister Stefan Lofven announced in a press conference Tuesday that their country would accept fewer refugees, strengthen border control and stop granting refugees permanent residency.
“I’m going to be completely honest,” Romson, a member of the Green Party, said at the press conference. “Recently, we’ve been having difficult discussions within the party about the perception of reality.”
“This is a terrible decision,” she added, according to Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter.
Lofven announced that for three years, the country would stop granting refugees permanent residency, and would grant temporary residence permits instead, The Guardian reported. Two weeks prior, Swedish police started submitting refugees to ID checks as they entered the country through popular migrant routes, including from Denmark and Germany, according to The Telegraph.
Neither Romson nor Lofven cited any concrete reasons in their speeches for the decision to change their country’s policy toward refugees, but a number of recent arrivals to Sweden have been forced to sleep on the streets in cities like Malmö due to a lack of shelter, reported The Guardian.
Sweden expects to receive up to 190,000 people seeking asylum in 2015 alone, Reuters reported. In early November, around 10,000 people entered the country every week.
That figure represents a significant portion of the approximately 863,000 refugees and migrants who have arrived in Europe by sea so far in 2015.
"The situation is untenable," Lofven said. "Now, to put it bluntly, more people will have to seek asylum and get protection in other European countries."
The EU agreed "in principle" in September to receive 160,000 refugees across member states, but countries like Hungary, Denmark and the Czech Republic quickly registered their unwillingness to take them in.
Several EU countries also imposed stricter border controls to slow down the influx of refugees and migrants.
Earlier this month, Austria and Slovenia erected fences along the Austrian-Slovenian and Slovenian-Croatian borders, respectively, and German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble announced that the country was reaching its limit on accommodating migrants and refugees.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker also said Wednesday that the Schengen Agreement, which permits passport-free and border control-free movement across 26 European countries, was "partially comatose" due to tightened border restrictions.
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