Mi­gra­tion tests Swe­den’s ‘hu­man­i­tar­ian su­per­power’ im­age

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

STOCK­HOLM: Over­whelmed by a mas­sive in­flux of mi­grants, Swe­den is ap­proach­ing its fis­cal and emo­tional limit and this “hu­man­i­tar­ian su­per­power” is now be­ing forced to hit the brakes. The Scan­di­na­vian king­dom, in which one in ev­ery five res­i­dents is of for­eign ori­gin, is ex­pected to re­ceive up to 360,000 new im­mi­grants in 2015 and 2016. That’s roughly the equiv­a­lent of Ger­many deal­ing with 3 mil­lion new mi­grants or 2.2 mil­lion ar­riv­ing in France. “The sit­u­a­tion is no longer ten­able.

Swe­den can no longer take refugees in the way it has be­fore,” Prime Min­is­ter Ste­fan Lofven warned this week. Ear­lier this year, Lofven was still rul­ing out the idea of set­ting a limit on mi­gra­tion. Im­mi­gra­tion Min­is­ter Mor­gan Jo­hans­son re­it­er­ated the gov­ern­ment’s line when he said: “We can­not guar­an­tee hous­ing to all refugees. If you have a roof over your head in Ger­many, then it’s prob­a­bly best for you to stay there.” In a sign of the prob­lems in­volved in deal­ing with the huge in­flux, the Mi­gra­tion Agency re­ported that it had to set up beds for 50 mi­grants at its own head­quar­ters on Thurs­day night.

Re­dis­tri­bu­tion of mi­grants

In a bid to ad­dress the ur­gency of the sit­u­a­tion and to put a lid on pub­lic spend­ing, the Min­istry of Fi­nance be­gan sug­gest­ing that de­vel­op­ment aid be cut by up to 60 per­cent in next year’s bud­get to help pay for the in­flux. Then, turn­ing to­wards the EU, Swe­den is seek­ing to re­lo­cate some of its asy­lum ap­pli­cants to other EU Coun­tries. Brus­sels un­veiled a plan in Septem­ber for the re­dis­tri­bu­tion of nearly 160,000 mi­grants and refugees from front­line states Italy and Greece. So far, only a small num­ber have been re­lo­cated. The EU plan was also to have seen 54,000 mi­grants and refugees re­lo­cated from Hun­gary. But Hun­gary, along with sev­eral other east­ern Euro­pean coun­tries, re­jected the com­pul­sory quota plan out of hand-and Swe­den is now very ea­ger to take ad­van­tage of the of­fer made to Bu­dapest for re­lo­cat­ing some of its own asy­lum seek­ers.

Fi­nally Stock­holm has said it would like to re­ceive spe­cial financial as­sis­tance from the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion. Since the 1950s, Swe­den has be­come a cov­eted des­ti­na­tion for im­mi­grants. Be­fore that, more than a mil­lion poor peas­ants and work­ers mi­grated to North Amer­ica from Swe­den be­tween 1840 and 1930. Last year the then prime min­is­ter Fredrik Re­in­feldt, a con­ser­va­tive, pre­sented the coun­try as a “hu­man­i­tar­ian su­per­power”. One year later, his party fiercely sup­ports stem­ming the flow of mi­grants.

Wel­fare state cuts

Be­cause of the wel­fare cuts made over the past 25 years, the gen­er­ous “Swedish model” is be­ing chal­lenged. Now Swe­den, with its econ­omy com­ing in at 17th per capita, ac­cord­ing to World Bank fig­ures last year, can no longer af­ford its am­bi­tions. Many of the most re­cent asy­lum seek­ers are sleep­ing on con­crete floors in dis­used ware­houses or in pris­ons.

Hos­pi­tals, schools and so­cial ser­vices are over­crowded and long­time im­mi­grants, plagued by high un­em­ploy­ment, are be­ing crammed into poor sub­urbs. “It’s nice to play good Sa­mar­i­tan, but in the sub­urbs we stand out­side of the sys­tem,” said Alex Ngabo, a com­mu­nity ac­tivist in Ten­sta, a sub­urb north of Stock­holm, where 87 per­cent of res­i­dents are from im­mi­grant fam­i­lies. Up to now, the gov­ern­ment an­nounce­ments have not had the de­sired ef­fect. More than 1,700 asy­lum ap­pli­ca­tions were filed Wed­nes­day, al­most beat­ing Swe­den’s daily record-which was set last month. Lofven ne­go­ti­ated with op­po­si­tion par­ties in Oc­to­ber to set re­stric­tions on mi­gra­tion, which would ap­ply only at the end of next year.

Polls in­di­cate that the anti-im­mi­grant Swe­den Democrats are ben­e­fit­ing most from the grow­ing ten­sions. The So­cial Democrats have lost sup­port among the poorer sec­tions of so­ci­ety, those per­ceived to be the most ex­posed to the un­prece­dented in­flux. As a former welder and trade union­ist, the prime min­is­ter knows he is lead­ing his party across a so­cial and eco­nomic tightrope. “Since the cri­sis of the 1990s, the So­cial Democrats have con­trib­uted to de­con­struct the wel­fare state when they were in power and failed to de­fend it when they were in op­po­si­tion,” said Ste­fan Jon­s­son In­sti­tute Mi­gra­tion Re­search at the Univer­sity of Linkop­ing. — AFP

ARFURT: Thou­sands hold up the glow­ing dis­plays of their mobile phones dur­ing a demon­stra­tion ini­ti­ated by the Al­ter­na­tive for Ger­many (AfD) party against what they call the un­con­trolled im­mi­gra­tion and asy­lum abuse in Er­furt. — AP

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