The party, whose former leader once called on Swedes to “open their hearts” in order to accept more refugees and allow the Nordic nation to become a “humanitarian superpower,” hascalled for a survey on immigration costs and admitted that introducing an immigration ceiling is also an option.
As part of their campaign for the upcoming general election, the Conservatives demanded the Swedish “red-green” government provide a clear explanation for what immigration to Sweden costs, the Dagens Nyheter daily reported.
According to the Conservatives, it is a citizen’s right to know the exact expenditure. By its own admission, Sweden’s leading opposition party could also imagine a maximum cost, as well as a ceiling for how many asylum seekers Sweden may take in.
The total cost of immigration in 2018 is projected to amount to SEK 40 billion ($5 billion), the Conservatives concluded, based on previous research on the issue. This is comparable to Sweden’s projected military expenditure for the same year (SEK 54 billion, or $6.6 billion) and more than double the country’s expenditure on cultural issues ($15 billion, or $1.8 billion), according to the Swedish government’s figures.
“We have had a tendency not to talk about immigration costs. However, we wouldn’t let another area increase in costs so dramatically without following up on it,” the Conservatives political economics spokeswoman Elisabeth Svantesson told Dagens Nyheter, calling for a “serious discussion” in order to work out a “long-term approach” to immigration costs.
Svantesson, who argued that Sweden has long focused on the advantages of having high immigration without ever taking up its flip side, predicted that the associated costs are going to skyrocket in the future, as the recent cull of “new Swedes” tends to have lower levels of education. Another problem closely associated with immigration and inflating the costs further, was, according to Svantesson, the rise of parallel societies.
The Conservatives’ push for a more austere immigration policy therefore includes extra requirements for obtaining Swedish citizenship in terms of language proficiency and residency. Also, special revocation clauses are envisaged in case of false information, bribery or terrorist offenses.
The proposed tightening is, indeed, in stark contrast to what former Conservative leader and Fredrik Reinfeldt (in office from 2006 to 2014) had in mind, when he pontificated his compatriots to “open their hearts” to make Sweden a “humanitarian superpower” or dismissed anti-immigrant tirades by claiming Sweden had plenty of empty space, as apparently all you could see from an airplane window was forest.
In 2015, Reinfeldt’s vision became a reality when Sweden, albeit under Social Democrats’ rule, took in a staggering 163,000 asylum seekers, the highest proportion per capita in all of Europe, which subsequently put the nation’s reputed welfare system under stress.
When the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats last year made a statement proposing an investigation of Stockholm City’s immigration costs, it sent shockwaves among other parties, including the Conservatives, who then argued there was no limit to how much immigration could cost Swedish taxpayers.
“In cases of people fleeing war, I don’t mind the costs,” Stockholm City opposition councilor Cecilia Brinck said in April 2017.
Now, Dagens Nyheter described the Conservatives as being “at the forefront of a stricter view on immigration and integration” among all the Swedish parties, including openly anti-immigrant and maverick Sweden Democrats.
Reinfeldt, however stuck to his “humanitarian” guns, by claiming that immigration was among the best things that had happened to the Nordic nation and comparing it to having babies.