Sweden urges EU to open doors to Iraqi refugees

Sweden on Monday urged other European Union nations to ease restrictions on asylum-seekers from Iraq, saying the Scandinavian country was accepting a disproportionate amount of Iraqis fleeing the violence in their homeland. "Sweden at present accepts more than half of all asylum applications from Iraqis in Europe," Migration Minister Tobias Billstrom and EU Affairs Minister Cecilia Malmstrom said in an opinion article published in a Stockholm daily. "Sweden can help, but we can't help everybody." More than 9,000 Iraqis sought shelter in Sweden in 2006, nearly four times as many as in 2005. Experts say the reason is that Sweden has more generous asylum policies than other EU countries. They also called for more EU support to Syria, Jordan and Iran, who have received the brunt of the hundreds of thousands who have fled Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. Sweden's immigration authority expects up to 40,000 asylum-seekers this year, about half of them from Iraq. The center-right government so far has resisted clampdowns on immigration seen in many other European countries.