Sweden proposes bill giving citizenship only to migrants who can speak the language

Protesters gather outside parliament in 2016 to demonstrate against tougher new asylum policies - AP
Protesters gather outside parliament in 2016 to demonstrate against tougher new asylum policies - AP
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Sweden's centre-left government has submitted a bill to parliament which will for the first time require those seeking permanent residency to prove they can speak the language.

“We think that a basic knowledge of Swedish and knowledge of society is a reasonable demand to make,” said the country's Justice Minister Morgan Johansson, adding that incomers would have to prove they can support themselves.

He said that the new migration policy had been designed to be tougher than the loose regime which was in place before the migration crisis in 2015, when 160,000 people sought asylum in the country, more per head than any other country in Europe.

“This means that we will be in line with other EU countries, which among other things will mean that Sweden is no longer a magnet for asylum seekers as we were during the refugee crisis in 2015,” he said.

The bill proposed by the ruling minority coalition, which is led by the centre-left Social Democrats in alliance with the Greens, makes permanent some of the restrictive measures in temporary emergency legislation brought in at the height of the crisis.

Among the most controversial is that successful asylum-seekers will not be granted permanent residency by default. Instead, they will have to wait three years and meet a list of requirements before applying.

Talks over the new immigration bill have been fraught, with the minority Liberal party threatening in February to pull out of the inter-party agreement that props up the ruling minority coalition over a mercy clause added to placate the pro-immigration Green Party.

The mercy-clause will mean permanent residency can be considered in “especially distressing circumstances”, for children and also for adults who have had temporary residency and developed a “special attachment to Sweden”, even if they otherwise do not fulfill the criteria.

After the bill was published, the centre-Right Moderate Party complained that the clause was “an effective amnesty” for the Afghan child asylum seekers who came to Sweden in 2015. The Right-wing populist Sweden Democrats said it would campaign for the new law to be “ripped up” on that basis.

The bill is expected to be put to parliament and come into force before the summer.