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Sweden’s government passes controversial new migration law – but how long will it last?

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Minister of Justice and Migration Morgan Johansson called the vote “a great success”, but Sweden’s conservative opposition vowed to keep fighting for stricter rules in immigration.

The Moderates, Christian Democrats, Sweden Democrats and Liberal Party had put together their own alternative and more restrictive migration policy — the first ever joint proposal from the four parties — but this was voted down by a narrow majority and the government’s plan approved.

“We will continue to work for reduced immigration. The proposals that went through today do not take into account at all the extensive integration problems we have,” the migration policy spokesperson for the Moderate Party, Maria Malmer Stenergard, told the TT newswire.

“As soon as we get the opportunity, we will present another proposal for reduced immigration,” she added.

Meanwhile, the Left Party criticised the law as too strict. Their migration policy spokesperson, Christina Höj Larsen, told TT: “Faced with two evils, the government’s proposal and that of the blue-brown opposition, the Left Party takes responsibility for taking the lesser of two evils.” 

Amnesty International also said it was “worried” about the law, describing its approval as “a dark day for Swedish refugee policies.”

The bill was supposed to have been put to parliament in early April, but was delayed by a few weeks.

The background to Tuesday’s vote is that a new set of laws was needed to replace temporary legislation which was introduced in 2016 to bring down the unprecedented number of asylum requests at the time.

One part of the bill, for example, makes residence permits for refugees time-limited as a rule of thumb rather than permanent. Since the temporary law was introduced temporary permits have been the norm in Sweden, but before that permanent permits were the default since 1984.

But initially, the plan was to pass a law that had a broader political consensus behind it.

A Migration Committee was set up with representatives from each party and a mandate to come up with ideas for a “humane, legally certain and effective” migration policy to replace the temporary laws introduced in 2016. 

But the talks were fraught, with immigration a core issue for most of the parties and widely disparate views on the best way forward. So the proposals brought forward by the committee were less extensive than expected; after cross-party talks broke down, the final report was made up of more than 20 proposals rather than a comprehensive policy, each one supported by a different combination of parties. 

The junior government coalition partner, the Green Party, was not happy with many of the proposals, in particular a proposed cap on the number of asylum seekers who can enter Sweden each year.

So the government put forward a new bill, based on the committee’s suggestions but with some notable differences, including no cap on asylum seeker numbers. The Green Party also pushed through rules that mean that people who are not eligible for asylum may in some cases be allowed to stay in Sweden on compassionate grounds.

The law will now apply from July 20th, 2021 onwards.

As for if the right-wing parties will get their chance to replace the law, and when, that depends on what happens within the next week. The centre-left government lost a no-confidence vote on Monday which leaves Prime Minister Stefan Löfven with a week to decide whether to call an election or start the process of forming a new government. 

If there is an election, it would take place this September. Recent opinion polls suggest a Moderate-Christian Democrat-Sweden Democrat-Liberal Party bloc currently have a small majority of the voter share, but whether that translates to actual votes in three months remains to be seen.

Whether or not there is a snap election this September, the election scheduled for September 2022 will still take place, and as with the 2018 vote, migration is likely to be one of the most discussed issues.



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Shocking news, Irish people may be sanest in Europe

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Ireland is running low on loopers. If we don’t watch out, we could emerge from the pandemic with our reputation for wildness completely shredded. We are in danger of being exposed as the sanest people in Europe.

Vaccines go into the arm, but also into the brain. They are a kind of probe sent into the national consciousness. In Ireland’s case, the probe has discovered exciting evidence of intelligent life.

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Vienna school under fire for sex ed class using doll for children as young as six

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According to Austria’s Kronen Zeitung newspaper, a teacher used a doll to explain “how sex works” to the children, while also encouraging them to use their hands and fingers on the doll. 

She said she wanted to “enlighten” the children about aspects of sex education. The children in the class were between the ages of six and ten. 

The teacher also explained to the children that “condoms should be used if you don’t want to have babies”, the newspaper reports. 

One boy was told to remove the clothes of the doll but refused before being told that he had to do so. 

The boys parents removed him from the school, saying that he was “overwhelmed” after the class and had started touching his sister inappropriately. 

“We have never seen our son like this before, he was completely overwhelmed” the parents said anonymously, “we are taking him out of the school.”

“We can already see the consequences. 

“A few days after these disturbing lessons, a classmate came to us to play. Like many times before, the boy also played with our ten-year-old daughter. This time he suddenly wanted to pull her pants down.

Peter Stippl, President of the Association for Psychotherapy, said that while sex education was crucially important, it needed to be age appropriate in order to be effective. 

“(This type of sexual education) scares the children! They get a wrong approach to the topic and their natural limit of shame is violated,” he said. 

“Sex education must always be age-appropriate and development-appropriate. Many children are six, seven or eight years old – or even older – not interested in sexual intercourse.

“We should never explain sexuality in schools in isolation from love and relationships. It makes you feel insecure and afraid. It harms the development of children.”

The Austrian Ministry of Education will now set up a commission to determine who will be allowed to teach sex ed in schools. 

The city of Vienna is also investigating the specific incident. 



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Madrid’s Retiro Park and Paseo del Prado granted World Heritage status | Culture

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Madrid’s famous Retiro Park and Paseo del Prado boulevard have been added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The decision, made on Sunday, brings the total number of World Heritage Sites in Spain to 49 – the third-highest in the world after Italy and China.

Up until Sunday, none of these sites were located in the Spanish capital. The Madrid region, however, was home to three: El Escorial Monastery in Alcalá de Henares, the historical center of Aranjuez and the Montejo beech forest in Montejo de la Sierra.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez celebrated the news on Twitter, saying it was a “deserved recognition of a space in the capital that enriches our historical, artistic and cultural legacy.”

Retiro Park is a green refuge of 118 hectares in the center of the city of Madrid. Paseo del Prado boulevard is another icon of the capital, featuring six museums, major fountains such as the Fuente de Cibeles as well as the famous Plaza de Cibeles square.

For the sites to be granted World Heritage status, Spain needed the support of two-thirds of the UNESCO committee – 15 votes from 21 countries. The proposal was backed by Brazil, Ethiopia, Russia, Uganda, Nigeria, Mali, Thailand, Kyrgyzstan, Oman and Saudi Arabia, among others.

Statue of Apollo in Paseo del Prado.
Statue of Apollo in Paseo del Prado.Víctor Sainz

Prior to the vote, the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), the organization that advises UNESCO, had argued against considering the Paseo del Prado and Retiro Park as one site, and recommended that the latter be left out on the grounds that there were no “historic justifications” for the two to be paired.

This idea was strongly opposed by Spain’s ambassador to UNESCO, Andrés Perelló, who said: “What they are asking us to do is rip out a lung from Madrid. El Prado and El Retiro are a happy union, whose marriage is certified with a cartography more than three centuries old.” The origins of Paseo del Prado date back to 1565, while Retiro Park was first opened to the public during the Enlightenment.

Pedestrians on Paseo del Prado.
Pedestrians on Paseo del Prado. Víctor Sainz

The ICOMOS report also denounced the air pollution surrounding the site. To address these concerns, Madrid City Hall indicated it plans to reduce car traffic under its Madrid 360 initiative, which among other things is set to turn 10 kilometers of 48 streets into pedestrian areas, but is considered less ambitious than its predecessor Madrid Central.

The 44th session of the World Heritage Committee took place in the Chinese city of Fuzhou and was broadcast live at Madrid’s El Prado Museum. Perelló summed up the reasons to include Retiro Park and El Paseo de Prado in less than three minutes.

“When people say ‘from Madrid to heaven’ [the slogan of the Spanish capital] I ask myself why would you want to go to heaven when heaven is already in Madrid,” he told delegates at the event, which was scheduled to take place in 2020, but was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Every year, UNESCO evaluates 25 proposals for additions to the World Heritage List. In the case of the Paseo del Prado and Retiro Park, the site was judged on whether it evidenced an exchange of considerable architectural influences, was a representative example of a form of construction or complex and if it was associated with traditions that are still alive today. The famous park and boulevard sought to be inscribed on the UNESCO list in 1992, but its candidacy did not reach the final stage of the process.

Etching of Paseo del Prado from Cibeles fountain, by Isidro González Velázquez (1788).
Etching of Paseo del Prado from Cibeles fountain, by Isidro González Velázquez (1788).Biblioteca Nacional de España

The effort to win recognition for the sites’ outstanding universal value began again in 2014 under former Madrid mayor Ana Botella, of the conservative Popular Party (PP), and was strengthed by her successor Manuela Carmena, of the leftist Ahora Madrid party, which was later renamed Más Madrid. An advisor from UNESCO visited the site in October 2019.

English version by Melissa Kitson.



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