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Public narratives and attitudes towards refugees and other migrants: Sweden country profile

Briefing/policy papers

Written by Kerrie Holloway, Amy Leach

Hero image description: Malmö, Sweden Image credit:Jorge Franganillo Image license:CC BY 2.0

This briefing presents an overview of the key features of migration and asylum policy in Sweden, recent trends in migration patterns, and public perceptions and political narratives on refugees and other migrants:

  • The proportion of Sweden’s population born abroad is one of the highest in Europe. In 2017, 18.5% of Sweden’s population was born abroad, compared with the EU average of 7.2%. The country is also home to the seventh-largest proportion of refugees per capita globally.
  • Migration is high on the political agenda in Sweden, with the salience of immigration spiking after the increase in arrivals of Syrian refugees in 2015–2016. In 2011, only 8% of Swedes believed that migration was the most important issue facing the country; by 2016, the figure was 44%.
  • Among European countries, Sweden was the least likely to believe that the EU had responded well to the increase in arrivals of refugees in 2015, with less than 10% agreeing and almost half strongly disagreeing.
  • Public narratives on refugees and other migrants have become more negative in the last decade, although this has focused on migrants’ perceived propensity to commit crimes and terrorist acts rather than their impact on the labour market.
  • Swedes are less concerned than most other Europeans about the economic impact of migration, in part due to a long history of relatively open labour market policies.

This briefing is part of a wider project supported by the IKEA Foundation aimed at supporting public and private investors interested in engaging with migration and displacement.