STOCKHOLM, Sweden (UPI) — Sweden may reject the asylum applications of up to 80,000 migrants who would then be deported over the course of several years.

Swedish Interior Minister Anders Ygeman told the Dagens Industri newspaper on Wednesday he believes between 60,000 and 80,000 asylum applications will be rejected from people who applied late last year. Those who face deportation would be returned to their home country or to the European country to which they first arrived.

In 2015, about 163,000 migrants applied for asylum in Sweden — the highest per capita in Europe. Ygeman said the mass deportation would be “a very big challenge.” The Scandinavian country processed 58,8000 asylum cases last year and about 55 percent were accepted.

“The first step will be to go with voluntary return, and to create the best conditions for that. But if that doesn’t work, we will need to have returns backed up by force,” Ygeman said. “I think we will have to see more chartered planes, particularly in the EU-region.”

Ygeman said the Swedish government is hoping to negotiate deals with other EU countries in deportation coordination, adding that Sweden is seeking return agreements from countries such as Afghanistan and Morocco. He later said he has not taken a position on how many migrants could be granted asylum, as it was a matter for authorities and courts to handle.

Ygeman’s press secretary, Victor Harju, told The Local on Thursday that the headlines asserting Sweden was to deport 80,000 asylum-seekers were “a bit exaggerated.”

“Due to the fact that we received so many people in Sweden last year, we have to face the reality that more people will also not fulfill the needs within the asylum program and will not get a permit to stay,” Harju said.

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