A record 4,542 asylum seekers withdrew their applications and left Sweden in the first eight months of 2016 as a result of long processing times, strict new rules on family reunion, and payouts to migrants who voluntarily returned to their country of origin.
There were also less than half as many new claims made between January and August 2016, as in the same period of 2015.
Sweden used to be one of Europe’s most popular destinations for migrants, with the number of asylum applications doubling between 2014 and 2015 to more than 160,000.
A high success rate – 55 per cent of claims were accepted in 2015 – combined with generous welfare benefits for asylum seekers, and a comparatively welcoming population, made the country extremely popular with people fleeing war and persecution, and left the Scandinavian nation with the second highest number of refugees per capita in Europe.
But for many asylum seekers who arrived during the influx last year, Sweden has proved less of a utopia than they hoped. Many faced a long, cold winter in political limbo, camped out in makeshift accomodation while the state struggled to cope with the large number of new claims. Less than 500 of the 160,000 arrivals have managed to secure jobs.