Sweden and Immigration: From Economic Migrants to Humanitarians

25 Pages Posted: 22 Jun 2013

Date Written: November 11, 2012


Swedish society has been recognized as the most pro-immigrant of any European country, coinciding with highly unrestrictive immigration policies (Nilsson, 2004). Sweden is referred to as an “immigration country” due to its large percentage of immigrants and its liberal, humanitarian-based policies (SCB Forecast, 2010). Immigration to Sweden is a post-war phenomenon that occurred in four distinct phases characterized by the country of origin. In analyzing the historical policies implemented by Sweden, the policies’ effect on Swedish society becomes evident alongside the reasoning behind the various implementations of major laws and regulations.

This paper builds upon the existing historical overview of immigration to Sweden, focusing especially on the characteristics defining the 1970s in order to understand what circumstances caused a shift from discouraging economic migrants to promoting refugees and other asylum-seekers fleeing persecution. I continue my historical analysis by differentiating distinct immigration policies and analyzing their legal and practical implications and how these affects have benefitted Sweden; economically, politically, and/or socially. I hope to combine my analysis of historical waves of immigration to Sweden and related historical events with my analysis of Sweden’s policies surrounding immigration to answer, “How has an image of humanitarianism helped promote the political and social goals of Sweden?” My findings demonstrate how an economic plateau alongside global humanitarian needs pushed Sweden to prioritize its social and political goal of being a welfare state that values equality and benevolence. Furthermore, my analysis also focuses on the stricter asylum policies starting in the 1990s and how this has impacted immigrant life in Sweden today, including problems surrounding integration into society and discrimination.

Keywords: Sweden, immigration, asylum, refugee, economic migration, humanitarianism, Europe, integration

Suggested Citation

Leslie, Emily, Sweden and Immigration: From Economic Migrants to Humanitarians (November 11, 2012). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2282490 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2282490

Emily Leslie (Contact Author)

Wake Forest University ( email )

2601 Wake Forest Road
Winston-Salem, NC 27109
United States

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