Up to 80,000 refugees who arrived in Sweden last year will be expelled from the country over the next few years, the country's interior minister said Thursday.
Anders Ygeman told newspaper Dagens Industri that since about 45 percent of asylum applications are currently rejected, the country must get ready to send back tens of thousands of the 163,000 who sought shelter in Sweden in 2015.
"I think that it could be about 60,000 people, but it could also be up to 80,000," Ygeman was quoted as saying.
Ygeman's spokesman, Victor Harju, confirmed the announcement, adding that the minister was simply applying the current approval rate to the record number of asylum-seekers.
"That rate could of course change," Harju added.
Germany and Sweden were the top destinations for asylum-seekers in Europe last year, with Sweden receiving one of the highest amounts of refugees per capita in the European Union.
Asylum-seekers whose applications are rejected are normally transported out of Sweden on commercial flights. But because of the large number being rejected they would use specially chartered aircraft to take them out of the country, Ygeman said.
The number of new arrivals has dropped sharply since Sweden's left-wing government brought in systematic photo ID checks for travellers earlier this month.
The announcement comes after a teenage refugee was arrested on suspicion of murdering a female employee at a youth refugee centers in Molndal, near Gothenburg, earlier this week.
A motive for the stabbing attack was not clear, but her death has led to questions about overcrowded conditions in some centers, with too few adults and employees to look after children.
Meanwhile, neighboring Denmark voted in favour of seizing the assets of asylum seekers to help pay for their stay while their claims are processed.
Valuables worth more than 10,000 kroner ($1,500) will be seized by police as migrants enter the country to help cover their housing and food costs.
It is part of a package of immigration reforms designed to make Denmark less appealing for asylum-seekers. However, some have likened it to the Nazis confiscating gold and other valuables from Jews during the Holocaust.
The Danish government says it's simply applying the same rules to refugees as to Danes who receive social benefits.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.