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A chillier welcome for migrants

OSLO—Asylum seekers flowing to Scandinavia are finding chillier welcomes as their numbers surge and far-right parties increasingly assert their influence on immigration policy, analysts say.

Denmark, Norway and Finland—but also Sweden, heretofore especially welcoming to migrants—have begun cutting back the benefits they offer to newcomers while also hardening their asylum policies.

“It seems there’s a certain amount of competition aimed at not offering the most generous social benefits to asylum seekers,” said Asle Toje, a Norwegian international relations expert.

Denmark’s immigration policy has grown tighter since 2001, when the far-right Danish People’s Party began influencing policy-making.

In July, soon after elections made the DPP the country’s second-largest party, Denmark moved to slash benefits to asylum seekers in a bid to reduce the influx.

Under the new rules, which came into effect in September, a recently arrived immigrant without children now receives 5,945 kroner (797 euros/$897) per month, compared with the 10,849 kroner they got previously.

The move seems to have had the desired effect, since the number of asylum seekers declined in September from a year earlier while setting records elsewhere in Europe.

Syrians, Afghans and Eritreans are still arriving en masse in Denmark, but they generally move on to destinations considered more hospitable.

“Many of them say that the conditions are better for them in other countries, perhaps Sweden, and so they go there,” said DPP leader Kristian Thulesen Dahl.

The DPP, an indispensable ally of Denmark’s minority liberal government, is doing all it can to make the country less attractive to refugees.

Norway and Finland, both led by governments with anti-immigration elements, are similarly moving to cut back social services and toughen conditions for uniting families and granting citizenship or permanent residency.

“It’s clear that the Nordic countries have generous welfare states, but we must ask ourselves if we should share them with those who come in,” said Sweden’s justice secretary of state, Joran Kallmyr, of the right-wing populist Progress Party.

Norway, an island of prosperity thanks to its hydrocarbons, is becoming unsure of preserving its comfortable lifestyle as oil prices decrease.

Even ultra-liberal Sweden, despite taking in more asylum seekers per capita than any other EU state—expecting around 190,000 this year for a population of under 10 million—has decided to tone down its image of generosity.

Topics: Asylum , migrants , Syrians , Afghans , Eritreans
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