Sayaka Osamani Törngren and Henrik Emilsson (of the GLIMER project’s Sweden team) have published a second national report on Sweden as part of the National Integration Evaluation Mechanism (NIEM) project. NIEM is a six-years long, transnational project supporting key actors in the integration field to improve the integration outcomes of beneficiaries of international protection. NIEM establishes a mechanism for a biennial, comprehensive evaluation of the integration of beneficiaries of international protection to provide evidence on gaps in integration standards, identify promising practices and evaluate the effects of legislative and policy changes. The idea is similar to MIPEX, but only follows up and evaluates policies for persons receiving international protection. Further information on the project may be found here.

The report describes recent developments of integration policies for beneficiaries of international protection in Sweden, with a specific focus on the period between 1st January 2017 and 30th April 2019, and compares how Swedish integration policies compare with the twelve other countries in the project at the specific time of 30th April 2019.

The authors conclude that Swedish migration and integration policies are in a state of uncertainty. Deeply entrenched principles and narratives among many of the political parties have been discarded in favour of the goal of reducing the number of asylum seekers and family migrants. As a consequence, more restrictive asylum and family reunification law has been implemented as of 2016.

However, compared to the other 12 countries included in the project, Swedish integration policies for persons who receive international protection is favourable. Sweden receives higher scores than other countries for most integration indicators. The focus on equal rights for non-citizens has led to a legal framework with few structural barriers. The introduction programme is well funded and provides free integration services, and there is an institutionalised, multi-level governance framework in place for funding and coordinating the programmes at the local level.

The new 2016 migration law did mean that Sweden received a lower score for residency rights for refugees, and for family reunification rights. In other policy areas, we have seen few changes during recent years. However, implementation problems seem to be increasing and could affect future scorings of the integration policy. The second half of 2019 saw major problems in the implementation of the introduction programme, the housing shortages are severe, and waiting times are long for asylum, citizenship and family reunification applications.

A parliamentary committee is currently investigating the future Swedish migration policy (Dir. 2019:32). The proposals are due in September 2020, and we can expect several restrictions in the area of asylum, long-term residence permits and family migration. Another ongoing commission investigates how language and civics requirements for citizenship should be designed (Dir. 2019:70) and is due in October 2020. This will probably lead to the introduction of integration requirements for naturalisation, something that has not been pursued in Sweden.

As shown in the report, there have been few significant changes in the migration and integration policies between 2017 and 2019, and Sweden still stands out as a country that provides refugees with good integration opportunities. The situation might, and probably will, look very different in a few years due to the ambition of many political parties to reduce the number of asylum seekers to levels comparable to neighbouring countries.

The full report, ‘Measuring refugee integration policies in Sweden: results from the National Integration Evaluation Mechanism (NIEM)’, may be downloaded here.