Sweden could house tens of thousands refugees in tents: Migration Agency

Migrants, mainly from Syria, prepare to board a train headed for Sweden, at Padborg station in southern Denmark September 10, 2015. REUTERS/Claus Fisker/Scanpix Denmark

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Swedish authorities will start setting up camps for refugees next week, and tens of thousands could spend the Swedish winter in tents, the Migration Agency said on Thursday.

Sweden says 150,000 refugees could arrive this year, smashing the previous record of 84,000 set during the Balkan wars of the 1990s. One of the biggest challenges is arranging accommodation in a country long plagued by a housing shortage.

Next week the Migration Agency and the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency will start constructing a tent camp for around 300 refugees at a military training ground in southern Sweden, where the average daily temperature in January is below zero.

The electrically-heated tents can house up to five people in separate bed and living room areas totaling 25 square meters.

If the expected 150,000 come, tents “will be our rescue”, Tolle Furegard, national housing coordinator at the Migration Agency, told Reuters, adding that least 35,000 new beds for migrants would probably be in tents.

The agency is searching out available housing but is struggling to keep up with the flow of refugees arriving. The standard of accommodation has been lowered and facilities such as military barracks are being used.

“We live from hand to mouth, and we have for a long time now,” said Furegard.

Reporting by Johan Ahlander; editing by Andrew Roche