STOCKHOLM, Sweden — Standing in the snow outside his hotel room, Khassan breathed in the cold Swedish air and tried to calm himself down. He had been Skyping with his family, who are back in Aleppo, where the internet connection is unstable. The call disconnected just as his 5-year-old daughter asked him when he would come home.
Khassan, whose identity is being concealed here for the safety of his family, is one of more than 23,000 people from Syria who have applied for asylum in Sweden since the beginning of 2012.
The nearly three-year conflict in Syria has resulted in the deaths of more than 120,000 people, and 2.3 million people have left the country, mostly to refugee camps in nearby countries. Less than 5 percent of those who escaped Syria have sought asylum outside of the Middle East, but that number is growing since Lebanon and Jordan, overflooded with Syrians, are struggling to handle new arrivals.
Khassan arrived in Sweden in the first week of November 2013. He is part of a growing wave of Syrians who have sought refuge in the Nordic country in the past three months, following the Swedish Migration Board’s Sept. 2 decision to grant all Syrian refugees permanent residence and allow family reunifications. An average of 1,000 Syrians have applied for asylum in Sweden every week since that decision — double the weekly average in the first eight months of 2013.