The Prime Minister of Sweden Stefan Löfven, the leader of Sweden’s largest left-wing party, has confirmed that the country will not repeat the mistakes of 2015 by opening the country’s borders indiscriminately to foreign migrants following the fall of Afghanistan.
The remarks, made to Swedish paper Dagens Nyheter, highlight how far populist political victories across Europe have transformed public policy debates on immigration, with a left-wing leader of a highly liberal country now refusing to give in to media pressure for overly generous asylum arrangements.
Populism has been a particularly effective force in Sweden, where the Sweden Democrats have continued to grow in popularity – briefly polling at 26% nationally and leading all political parties in 2019, forcing establishment groups to change tack to win back support.
Löfven told the paper that the country would “never go back to 2015” and said: “Sweden will not end up there again.”
“Right now, of course, the situation in Afghanistan is very serious and the situation has deteriorated rapidly” he said on the ongoing crisis in the Middle East. “But there is also great uncertainty and one must have respect for the fact that it is very difficult to predict how the situation will develop.
“Of course, there may be more people leaving their homes, and then probably primarily to other areas within Afghanistan and the surrounding area. But we will of course follow the development very closely.”
He confirmed that the country has temporarily halted deportations to Afghanistan but said firmly that the government would not pursue a policy of amnesty for illegal Afghan migrants or those who need to be deported eventually.
But there appears to be some conflict in Löfven’s government over the policy, with one spokesman for his coalition partners in the Green party saying more permissively that “our focus is to provide long-term security to people who would otherwise end up in a completely unsustainable situation”.
Opposition parties have already seized on the tension, with the migration spokesman for the centre-right moderate party Maria M Stenergard complaining that the Green’s deputy PM “opens up for amnesty. This government risks quickly taking us back to 2015.”