(Bloomberg) -- Trailing in the polls, Sweden’s ruling Social Democrats are toughening up their immigration policy ahead of a general election due in September.
Prime Minister Stefan Lofven and his migration minister, Helene Fritzon, summoned reporters on Friday to announce that restrictive measures originally meant as temporary in the wake of the refugee crisis of 2015 should be kept in place indefinitely.
"No other country in Europe has accepted as many refugees in relation to its population as Sweden,” Lofven said, adding that the country had welcomed nearly 350,000 foreigners over the past four years.
The Social Democrats’ re-positioning on migration echoes that of its sister party in Denmark, which is now considering a possible alliance with the nationalist Danish People’s Party after elections due next year.
Migration has emerged as a key election campaign issue in Sweden. The Sweden Democrats, an anti-immigration party until recently consigned to the margins of political life, has surged in the polls and could emerge as a power-broker between the country’s established blocs after the September vote.
Lofven said the government should adopt a “sustainable” migration policy that’s proportional to the size of the Swedish population. He also said that countries receiving aid from Sweden need to accept returning migrants whose asylum applications have been rejected, and that successful applicants should have less freedom to choose where in Sweden they want to live.
Read more about the Social Democrats’ migration plans
The move prompted a dissenting Social Democrat, Sara Karlsson, to resign from parliament, writing in a Facebook post: “Do you remember a few years ago when we looked at developments in Denmark and said we shouldn’t let that happen in Sweden? Well. It happened.” However, the biggest opposition party, the Moderates, called it “good for Sweden” and said negotiations should get underway before the election takes place.
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