September 22, 2016 / 3:16 PM / 3 years ago

Sweden plans wider police powers in clampdown on asylum seekers

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Swedish police will be able to raid companies to catch illegal migrant workers under new proposals announced on Thursday, part of the centre-left government’s clampdown on asylum seekers whose applications have been rejected.

A police officer escorts migrants from a train at Hyllie station outside Malmo, Sweden, November 19, 2015. REUTERS/Johan Nilsson/TT NEWS AGENCY/File Photo

Sweden made an abrupt U-turn last year on decades of generous immigration policies, introducing border controls and tighter rules after 163,000 people applied for asylum in 2015.

With numbers down sharply, the government has turned its focus to sending back those who have been told they cannot stay, many of whom have gone underground.

“Those who have had their asylum application processed by the judicial system and been rejected must go home again,” Migration and Justice Minister Morgan Johansson said.

Johansson said up to 40,000 people would face expulsion from Sweden this year and next.

The new measures include potential jail terms for employers hiring illegal workers and an expansion of the police’s rights to conduct fingerprint testing and to confiscate passports.

The Left Party, which backs the minority government in parliament, criticised the proposal.

“The proposals could lead to racial profiling, where those of us who have dark hair or brown eyes are treated as suspects and constantly have to prove they have the right to be here,” said Christina Hoj Larsen, the party’s migration spokesperson.

More than 12,000 people who face deportation or voluntary repatriation have already gone missing, Swedish television said.

After insisting a year ago that Europe did not “build walls”, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven has now adopted some of Europe’s toughest asylum rules.

His government has already withdrawn welfare and housing support for asylum seekers whose cases are rejected and cut grants to local authorities to house unaccompanied minors.

New rules make it harder for refugees to bring their families to Sweden and have restricted grants of permanent residency to all but a few asylum seekers.

The tough new asylum rules are temporary but Lofven has said they will be in force until other European countries take a more equal share of asylum seekers.

Reporting by Daniel Dickson and Johan Ahlander; writing by Simon Johnson; Editing by Alistair Scrutton and Gareth Jones

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