Sweden could take in more migrants: official

Sweden has taken in more unaccompanied child asylum seekers than any other country in Europe (AFP Photo/Johan Nilsson)

Stockholm (AFP) - Sweden could accept greater numbers of migrants if they were distributed more evenly across the country, a government official said Sunday.

"There are 40 to 50 municipalities that are facing a crisis, but the other 200 to 220 municipalities say they can do more," Per-Arne Andersson, a top official at the Swedish Association of Local and Municipal Governments, told Swedish radio.

Sweden, with a population of 9.8 million, took in some 160,000 asylum seekers in 2015, the highest number of refugees per capita by any European Union nation.

But arrivals have slowed dramatically. After a peak of 10,500 asylum seekers during the week ending November 15, the number fell to about 3,500 a week by mid-December, according to the Migration Agency.

In a bid to stem the flow of migrants, Sweden reinstated border controls on November 12, and two weeks later announced a drastic tightening of its asylum policy.

Erik Nilsson, a senior official in the prime minister's office for refugee and labour issues, says the key issue is accommodation.

"We need for people to be able to find their own housing, using their relatives, and we also need more refugee housing facilities," he told Swedish radio.

The UN refugee agency and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) have said more than one million migrants and refugees reached Europe in 2015.

Most were refugees fleeing war and violence in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.