The following article was published yesterday in the Danish daily Berlingske Tidende. Many thanks to Liberty DK for the translation, which was posted earlier at Vlad Tepes in a slightly different form:
Ikea killings open Sweden’s taboo debate on immigration
By Tinne Hjersing Knudsen
The murders in Vasteras have created broad discussion about Swedish immigration policy and the problems the concealment of the issues causes. The Swedish immigration authorities are now talking openly about the massive problems with integration. And many refugees no longer see Sweden as an attractive country in which to seek asylum.
STOCKHOLM: “It may well be that a mother and her son were stabbed in the kitchen department at Ikea, but the number of murders in Sweden has been declining since 1990.” That was the message in Swedish media two days after the seemingly random killings in the city of Vasteras northwest of Stockholm.
The national newspaper Dagens Nyheter was one of those that broke the story with an article that read that Sweden has generally become a safer country. The story got hundreds of angry Swedes to their keyboards, demanding an explanation: They wanted to know “How could the newspaper print these types of stories so soon after innocent people had been killed?”
Then the newspaper brought out a story that the security at the country’s asylum centers would now be increased. The perpetrator was a rejected asylum seeker from Eritrea, and the police feared that “dark forces” would avenge the murders.
Now the angry comments no longer only came from troubled Facebook users, but from bloggers and columnists from across the country. The Svenska Dagbladet editorial writer Ivar Arpi was one of those who responded on Twitter.
“Imagine that you are one of the relatives of the murdered people and go on the DN.SE website. These are the headlines you will be greeted by,” he wrote and attached a picture of the three stories, echoing each other on Dagens Nyheter‘s website.
The debate opens up
The Swedish Democrats (SD) also reacted promptly to the stories that had called neither for dialogue regarding Swedish immigration, nor had paid attention to the fact that the perpetrator was a rejected asylum seeker.
“In times like these, it may be appropriate to recall how Fredrik Reinfeldt wanted us to ‘open our hearts’, and being thankful ‘because you chose Sweden’. I hardly think the murdered mother and son would agree with the ex-minister,” Björn Söder, SD’s former party secretary and vice president of parliament, writes on Facebook.
Although the comment was immediately denounced by Söders political opponents as vulgar, the Ikea killings have led to a change of mood in the previously almost absent debate about immigration: right-wing politicians are now talking about giving refugees temporary residence permits and several columnists other than those from Svenska Dagbladet are now openly asking the question of how many refugees Sweden actually can handle.
Sweden no longer attractive
Most voices are still cautious about giving the double murder in Ikea fundamental importance. But beyond Västerås the tragic incident anticipatess a far greater and more fundamental problem with Swedish immigration — an issue which has received very little attention: integration in this great asylum country is running anything but smoothly.
For the first time in five years — and at a time when the number of refugees arriving in Europe is about seven times higher compared to the previous year — there is a declining number of asylum applications in Sweden. The massive immigration which has taken place over the years has made it increasingly difficult for refugees to integrate into Swedish society — which is why Sweden is no longer an attractive country in which to seek asylum.
That is what the Director General of the Swedish immigration authorities Migration Board, Anders Danielsson, believes.
“Sweden has of course been a primary recipient country, together with Germany, for quite a long time. Therefore, the waiting time to get a residency permit and family reunification has been longer. That’s one thing. In addition, integration into Sweden does not work well. It is difficult to find housing, and it is hard to find jobs. Those two things means that Sweden is not as interesting a country to consider as it has been,” he says.
It is especially the number of asylum seekers from Syria and the Western Balkans, the immigration authorities have forecasted there will be fewer of this year.
According to the calculations, the number will be 6,000 fewer applications compared to last year, so the final number of asylum seekers would end up at around 74,000.
“Increased border control in southern Europe has of course also played a big role. France’s control at the border with Italy stops some from getting further up into northern Europe. But while the total number of asylum seekers coming to Europe has increased dramatically, it is falling in Sweden,” says Danielsson.
He worries especially about what the wait and the limited opportunities for integration means for the refugees coming to Sweden.
“It’s never a good thing that people do not enter properly into society. Integration is essential so that they can create a life in Sweden. Without this, it takes a long time to get a job and to improve one’s personal social situation. But it is a political issue that politicians must deal with,” says Anders Danielsson.
Of the refugees who come to Sweden, a mere 10% find work after they have undergone the two-year integration program. Another 20% are enrolled in education courses, and thus 70% of them end up unemployed.
Berlingske tried to get a comment from the Social Democratic immigration minister, Morgen Johansson, but he declined to comment.
Would consider another country
In Södertäjle outside Stockholm sits 25-year-old Gabi Alwashy, who is one of the refugees who feels the problems in his own life. He has lived in Sweden for a year and four months with his mother and brother since they fled the civil war in Syria and Aleppo.
Like many newly arrived refugees, Gabi Alwashy was at first very happy to have come to safety in Sweden.
“But after a while I began to notice that there were no Swedes living in this area. There are only other immigrants, and then it’s not easy to find Swedish friends,” he says.
Half of the inhabitants of Södertälje were born outside of Sweden, and in the district of Ronna where Gabi Alwashy lives, there live virtually no Swedes at all.
Södertälje is included in a report made by the Norwegian police which is used as a horror example of a ghetto. The problem arises because there is a housing shortage, and the refugees cannot afford to rent space elsewhere other than in the cheap suburbs. But here there are very few job opportunities, and so the problem becomes self-reinforcing.
The 25-year-old Syrian has a bachelor’s degree in English literature and is passionate about becoming a part of Sweden. He is still in the Swedish integration program, so he will only begin to look for work eight months from now. But he is dreading it even now.
“If I had known that it was so difficult to find housing and jobs in Sweden, I would probably have considered trying another country in Europe,” said Gabi Alwashy. “If you allow so many immigrants to enter, you must surely have a long term plan for them.”
In his pursuit of Swedish friends, Gabi Alwashy found the organization Kompis Sweden, a private initiative that tries to create contact between refugees and Swedes. Here he found a friend named Simon, who he hopes can help him become a part of Swedish society.
The project leader of Kompis Sweden, Sofia Thorsmark, also sees the problems with integration as massive.
“There are many closed doors in Sweden. We live in a segregated society where Swedes and the newcomers have little to do with each other. We are trying to change this because otherwise integration will fail. Right now we live in the same country, but in two different worlds.”