A group of migrants in Sweden were locked in a stand-off with authorities on Tuesday, saying the village to which they were taken was “too cold” and isolated, officials said on Tuesday.
Around 60 Syrians and Iraqis were taken by bus on Sunday evening to Limedsforsen, close to the Norwegian border, to a village of wooden chalets where they were to stay while their asylum claims were assessed.
But around a third of them refused to get off the bus when they saw they were in a forest dozens of kilometres from the nearest town. Many demanded to be taken to a big city – or even to Germany.
“They told us we were going to live here, but it’s not possible for everyone – there are children and a pregnant woman. It’s too cold, there are no shops and no doctor,” Syrian migrant Hadeel Waez told SVT television station. The Swedish migration agency Migrationsverket (MV) says that the country is receiving so many refugees – 10 000 a week – that structures set up to deal with them are being overwhelmed.
“We don’t have an alternative solution. This is all we have to offer them,” MV spokesperson Guna Graufelds told AFP. Talks were under way on Tuesday evening with around 15 of the migrants.
Cases of migrants refusing their relocation are rare, Graufelds said. Sweden, with a population of 9.8 million, expects to receive up to 190 000 asylum applications this year – putting it among the EU states with the highest proportion of refugees per capita as the continent struggles with a massive influx of migrants.
But the country’s long, dark winter, where temperatures can fall as low as -30°C, is a major challenge for migrants moving from warmer climes.