Sweden’s Interior Minister Anders Ygeman has said that his country may reject the asylum applications of up to 80,000 refugees and should prepare to deport them.
Anders Ygeman said charter aircraft would be used to deport the refugees but it would take several years.
Some 163,000 refugees applied for asylum in Sweden in 2015, the highest per capita number in Europe.
The numbers have fallen significantly since Sweden imposed tighter border controls in 2016.
Along with Germany, Sweden is a prime destination for refugees and other refugees entering the EU illegally.
Of the approximately 58,800 asylum cases processed in Sweden in 2015, 55% were accepted.
Of those facing expulsion, Anders Ygeman was quoted in Swedish media as saying: “We are talking about 60,000 people but the number could climb to 80,000.”
He later tweeted to say he had not taken a position on how many refugees had grounds for asylum, it being a matter for the authorities and the courts.
Sweden earlier this week became the latest of a number of European nations to see tensions over migrants heightened by violence. A 15-year-old asylum seeker was arrested in Molndal, near Gothenburg, after a 22-year-old asylum centre employee was stabbed to death.
More than one million refugees and migrants travelled to Europe in 2015, most fleeing conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
The UN says another 46,000 people have arrived in Greece so far this year, with more than 170 killed making the dangerous crossing from Turkey.
In the latest such accident, at least 11 migrants drowned – mostly children – after their boat capsized off the island of Samos, the Greek coast guard says. Several are still missing.
On January 27, a draft European Commission report said Greece “seriously neglected” its obligations to control the external frontier of Europe’s passport-free Schengen zone.
Greek government spokeswoman Olga Gerovasili accused the Commission of “blame games” and said it had failed to act on a program agreed in 2015 to relocate tens of thousands of migrants and refugees stranded in Greece.
Denmark has also faced criticism this week after approving legislation to seize the valuables of refugees in the hope of limiting the influx of migrants.
According to German media, the number of refugees seeking asylum in Germany this year will be as high as 1.5 million – almost double the previous estimate.
The German government has not confirmed the new estimate, which comes from an internal official report cited by popular daily Bild.
The report warns that services helping refugees will not be able to cope.
Separately, a centre-right regional minister put the expected total at 1.2-1.5 million for 2015.
The German government previously estimated the number of asylum claims this year to reach 800,000 to one million in total.
Many are refugees fleeing the wars in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, but there are also many economic migrants from the Balkans, Asia and Africa.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres has warned that Europe, in dealing with the migration crisis, is engaged in a “battle of compassion versus fear, and of tolerance versus xenophobia”.
Speaking in Geneva, Antonio Guterres said the world was facing the highest levels of forced displacement in recorded history and the principle of asylum must remain sacrosanct.
He urged Europe to defend “its founding values of tolerance and openness by welcoming refugees of all religions”.
The leaders of Hungary and Slovakia have said the influx of Muslims is a challenge to Europe’s “Christian” identity.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is to meet EU leaders in Brussels shortly to discuss the Syria crisis, which has fuelled an exodus of Syrians to the EU via Turkey.
Greek islands near the Turkish coast are overburdened with migrants, many of them Syrians determined to reach Germany. The crisis has strained EU relations with Turkey, a mainly Muslim country.
On October 4, several thousand Germans opposed to mass immigration demonstrated in two eastern towns – Plauen and Sebnitz – after a call to action by the anti-Islamic PEGIDA movement.
PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against Islamisation of the West) has staged regular anti-immigration marches across Germany.
The migrant influx is stretching resources in many German cities, including Hamburg, where empty commercial properties can now be seized in order to house migrants.
There is growing political pressure on German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who continues to defend her open-door refugee policy. Germany can manage, the chancellor insisted at the weekend.
Many German politicians – including her conservative Bavarian CSU allies and various EU partners – have criticized the policy.
The Interior Minister of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania region, Lorenz Caffier, gave an estimate of 1.2-1.5 million asylum claims for this year.
However, federal Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said it was very hard to give accurate figures. Some refugees either avoided registration or moved elsewhere after being registered in one place, he said.
In 2014, the national total for asylum claims was 202,000.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said he is “shocked” after Hungarian riot police used tear gas and water cannon against refugees at Serbian border.
According to Ban Ki-moon, such treatment of asylum seekers was “unacceptable”.
Hundreds of refugees were involved in clashes at the Hungary-Serbia border on September 16, trying to breach a razor-wire fence.
More than 5,000 refugees have entered Croatia so far – avoiding Hungary – police say, and another 7,266 entered Germany on September 16.
German police said this was more than double the number that crossed the previous day, adding that most were picked up on the border with Austria.
Germany is the final goal of many refugees, as the EU remains divided over how to deal with the crisis.
Hungary defended its action, saying that 20 police officers were injured as refugees tried to break through a gate, and a spokesman accused migrants of using children as “human shields”.
At least two refugees were also injured, Hungarian and Serbian officials said.
Hungary closed its entire border with Serbia on September 15 after making it illegal to enter the country or damage the border fence. The Hungarian courts have started fast-track trials of arrested refugees.
More than 200,000 people have already crossed into Hungary this year to enter the EU’s Schengen zone, which normally allows people to travel between member countries without restrictions.
Many are now heading for the Croatian border. Croatian police said 5,650 had crossed into the country.
Interior Minister Ranko Ostojic told national TV that the police were currently in control of the situation but if refugees continued to arrive in large numbers the authorities would have to think about taking a different approach.
On September 16, the Croatian officials said the country would allow migrants to travel to northern Europe.
Several hundred left the border by train, but thousands more have gathered to wait for further trains.
On September 16, there were chaotic scenes near the town of Horgos, with fires burning and police vehicles and ambulances arriving on the Serbian side of the border, across from massed ranks of riot police on the other side.
Some refugees threw missiles, including stones and water bottles.
The firing of tear gas and water cannon created a stampede of refugees away from the border.
Several people received treatment from the Serbian ambulance service, some suffering the effects of tear gas.
Serbian PM Aleksandar Vucic accused Hungary of being “brutal and “non-European”.
Serbia has said it will send additional police to its border with Hungary.
One of the IKEA knife attack suspect, who is accused of killing two people at a store in Vasteras, Sweden, faced imminent deportation hours before the attack, Swedish officials say.
The 35-year-old Eritrean suspect attended a meeting on his asylum status just hours before the knife attack, officials added.
The suspect, who was found at the scene with serious knife injuries, had earlier met to discuss his failed residency application, the Swedish Migration Agency said.
A mother and her adult son died in the attack in Vasteras on August 10.
A second man has also been detained.
On August 12, the prosecutor’s office said that investigators were still holding the 23-year-old who was staying at the same centre for asylum seekers as the injured man.
He has denied any involvement in the attack.
Police say the reason for the stabbing is unclear, but they do not believe it was politically motivated.
Migration officials said the 35-year-old had attended a meeting at the agency on Monday morning about plans to deport him to Italy after his residency application was rejected last month.
Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet has reported that CCTV images show the suspect grabbing two knives from the kitchenware section of IKEA just before the two shoppers, a 55-year-old woman and her 27-year-old son, were attacked.
“The attack ends when the alleged murderer stabs himself in the stomach,” the report said.
Police chiefs have not confirmed the footage or whether knives on sale in the shop were used.
The 35-year-old has not yet been interviewed due to the serious nature of his injuries.
Police increased security at refugee accommodation centers in the region this week after confirming they had arrested two Eritrean asylum seekers over the murders.
The store in Vasteras, which is about 70 miles west of the capital Stockholm, is one of the largest in Sweden.
European Union states have been asked to take in 40,000 asylum seekers from Syria and Eritrea who land in Italy and Greece over the next two years.
Under the European Commission’s latest plan, Germany, France and Spain would receive the most migrants.
The idea of using quotas to resettle those who have made it to Europe has caused controversy in some EU states.
The UK government says that it will not take part in such a system.
France, Spain, Hungary, Slovakia and Estonia have also all voiced concerns, and a final decision will be taken by EU governments after a European Parliament vote.
Denmark has the right to opt out of the plan while Ireland and the UK can decide whether they wish to opt in.
The plan applies to Syrian and Eritrean nationals who arrive in Italy or Greece after April 15, 2015. The European Commission said it could also apply to Malta if it also faced a sudden influx of migrants.
This is in addition to moves announced earlier this month by the EU for a voluntary scheme to settle 20,000 refugees fleeing conflict who are currently living outside the EU.
Of the 40,000 migrants considered “in clear need of international protection”, the Commission says:
Germany would take in 8,763 (21.91%)
France would take in 6,752 (16.88%)
Spain would take in 4,288 (10.72%)
Dimitris Avramopoulos, the home affairs commissioner, said it was not proposing “the fixing of quotas… for migration in general” and but it was “up to each member to decide how many refugees they will grant refugee status [to]”.
“We only propose – and we insist on that – a fair distribution of a concrete number of migrants in clear need of international protection across the European Union,” he said.
Countries would receive €6,000 ($6,600) for every person relocated on their territory under the latest proposal, the commission said.
More than 1,800 migrants have died in the Mediterranean in 2015 – a 20-fold increase on the same period in 2014.
Some 60,000 people have already tried to make the perilous crossing this year, the UN estimates.
Many are trying to escape conflict or poverty in countries such as Syria, Eritrea, Nigeria and Somalia.
The European Commission said Italy and Greece were facing an exceptional level of migration, with Italy seeing a 277% rise in irregular border crossings from 2013 to 2014 and Greece seeing an increase of 153%.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon has also urged Europe to do more to help migrants, calling for search-and-rescue operations in the Mediterranean to be “further strengthened”.
Earlier this month, EU ministers backed plans for a naval force to set up to combat smuggling gangs, if necessary by military force, inside Libyan territorial waters.