Shortly before President Barack Obama landed in Stockholm last week, the Swedish government made a stunning announcement, saying it’s willing to take in every Syrian refugee seeking asylum, and to grant the applicants permanent legal status.
That’s no small commitment considering the staggering numbers of refugees pouring out of Syria’s borders – more than 2 million at the United Nations’ last count -- suggesting a potentially huge applicant pool for the northern European country with a total population of only 9.5 million.
“All Syrian asylum seekers who apply for asylum in Sweden will get it," Swedish migration agency spokeswoman Annie Hoernblad told AFP.
"The agency made this decision now because it believes the violence in Syria will not end in the near future,” she added.
She said the agency expects the "vast majority of Syrian nationals who today have provisional status will apply for permanent status."
But according to International Business Times, those discovered to have committed war crimes in Syria will be stripped of residency rights.
Before the announcement, Sweden allowed refugees to live in its borders for only three years, after which each case was evaluated.
Those who get permanent status will be allowed to bring their families to the new country.
While the decision appears to be popular domestically, it has elicited criticism from those who question how Swedish society will be able to sustain such a large group of arrivals.
“It means not only a residency card but also an elaborate benefits package including free money, housing, health care, day care – you name it,” wrote Bruce Bawer of FrontPage Magazine.
“Before this week Sweden’s immigration policy was already suicidal; it’s hard not to see the new policy as an effort to turn slow-motion self-slaughter into something more like a leap off a cliff,” he wrote. “The sheer numbers aside, how many of the newcomers will be members of Al Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, and so on?”