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Sweden struggles to cope with migrant tide

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Sweden said on Thursday it expected up to 190,000 migrants this year, putting unprecedented strain on a country famous for welcoming refugees but planning to house many in tents this winter.

On the opposite pole of the angry debate on the migration crisis, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban urged European leaders to change their immigration policies and consult voters, saying they otherwise faced a threat to the democratic order.

Thousands of refugees continued to pour into Slovenia in the hope of reaching prosperous northern Europe, and the tiny country appealed for other European Union states to send police to help manage the flow.

Europe is struggling to cope with its biggest wave of migrants and refugees since World War Two. According to the International Organization for Migration, more than 670,000 people have arrived by sea this year, fleeing war zones and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

Sweden’s Migration Agency said more than 30,000 of the 140-190,000 people it expected in 2015 would be unaccompanied children.

“We have seen pictures of people who are literally walking from Greece across the Balkans to Germany and on to Sweden,” agency head Anders Danielsson told reporters.

“The current refugee situation is unprecedented both in a European and Swedish perspective.”

The agency said it would need an additional 70 billion Swedish crowns ($8.41 billion) over the next two years to cope.

It added the flow of asylum seekers was seen easing next year, but the number could still reach 170,000.

More than 100,000 have already arrived in Sweden this year, topping the previous record during the Balkan wars in the early 1990s.

Nearly 10,000 came in the past week alone.

“Last night all the our places were full,” Danielsson said.

The Agency estimated it would face a shortage of accommodation for 25,000-45,000 migrants by the end of the year. Tens of thousands could spend the cold Swedish winter in heated tents.

Polls show most Swedes still welcome refugees, but the influx has caused tensions.


There have been attacks on asylum centers, and the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats party is set to launch an advertising campaign in foreign media to discourage people from coming.

Polls give the party around 20 percent of the vote, up from 13 percent in the last election in autumn 2014.

German police warned on Thursday of a growing threat of attacks on politicians by radicals angry about an influx of migrants, and said crimes directed at refugee shelters were increasing dramatically.

Slovenia has asked the European Union for police to help regulate the inflow from Croatia, Interior Minister Vesna Gyorkos Znidar said.

Since last Friday, when Hungary sealed off its border with Croatia, migrants from Syria, Afghanistan and other strife-torn countries have instead started entering Slovenia, which like Hungary is a member of the EU’s Schengen visa-free zone.

Slovenia said more than 12,000 migrants had crossed into its territory in the last 24 hours, and more than 38,000 since Saturday.

Bottlenecks are forcing thousands to sleep outdoors in Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia.

Anas Kaial, from Hama in Syria, spent the night under open skies with his mother, wife and three children.

“It was so cold,” he said after arriving in Slovenia from Croatia. “The only way we could distract our children from the cold and make them stop crying was by telling them that they will get all the Barbie dolls they want once we come to Germany.

“We just want to have a normal simple life. We can’t afford more bloodshed and shelling,” he said.


Hungary has fortified its borders against the tide of migrants and spoken of a threat to Europe’s Christian and democratic way of life.

Orban told the state television channel m1 that European leaders had no mandate to let hundreds of thousands in.

“This destabilizes European democracies,” he said. “We need to start the debate about the future of our continent honestly, without the muzzle of ‘political correctness’, without pretence, talking straight.”

“We need to listen to the people and incorporate their views in our politics. If we can’t do that, we’ll have a political crisis on top of our migrant crisis.”

U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said on Thursday the Czech Republic was committing systematic human rights violations by detaining refugees for up to 90 days and strip-searching them for money to pay for their own detention.

He said he was alarmed by Islamophobic statements by Czech President Milos Zeman, and concerned about the conditions in detention facilities. Children were also detained, which was unjustifiable, he said.

“The president has long warned of the threat of Islamic fundamentalism. He stands by his opinion and he will not change it under pressure from abroad,” Zeman’s spokesman said in Prague.

Croatia’s Defence Minister Ante Kotromanovic called for Europe “to build, in military terms, a bulwark on the Greek-Turkish border which will … enable the arrivals of refugees in accordance with Europe’s plans”, Croatian news agency Hina reported.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has called an extraordinary meeting on Sunday of leaders of Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia, plus key organizations involved. Reuters

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