Sus­pect’s refugee sta­tus stuns Stock­holm

In 2016, he had asked for res­i­dence per­mit

The Washington Times Daily - - WORLD - BY MATTI HUUHTANEN AND JAN M. OLSEN

STOCK­HOLM | Much like the flags on the Stock­holm sky­line — some still fly­ing half­staff, oth­ers at their peak — peo­ple here were di­vided over their coun­try’s friendly im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies two days af­ter an asy­lum-seeker from Uzbek­istan al­legedly killed four peo­ple in the city’s dead­li­est ex­trem­ist at­tack in years.

The Swedish cap­i­tal was slowly, but res­o­lutely, re­gain­ing its nor­mal rhythm Sun­day as de­tails about the 39-year-old sus­pect emerged.

Po­lice said he had been or­dered to leave Swe­den in De­cem­ber af­ter his re­quest for a res­i­dence per­mit was re­jected six months ear­lier.

In­stead, he al­legedly went un­der­ground, elud­ing au­thor­i­ties’ at­tempts to track down and de­port him un­til a hi­jacked beer truck raced down a pedes­trian street and rammed into an up­scale de­part­ment store Fri­day.

“It makes me frus­trated,” Swedish Prime Min­is­ter Ste­fan Lofven told Swedish news agency TT on Sun­day.

The sus­pect, who has been de­tained on sus­pi­cion of ter­ror­ist of­fenses, was known for hav­ing “been sym­pa­thetic to ex­trem­ist or­ga­ni­za­tions,” said Jonas Hys­ing of Swe­den’s na­tional po­lice.

A sec­ond per­son was ar­rested on the same po­ten­tial charge Sun­day, and four oth­ers were be­ing held by po­lice. None of them have been iden­ti­fied.

Swe­den has long been known for its open­door pol­icy to­ward mi­grants and refugees. But af­ter the Scan­di­na­vian coun­try of 10 mil­lion took in a record 163,000 refugees in 2015 — the high­est per-capita rate in Europe — the gov­ern­ment has tried to be more se­lec­tive about which new­com­ers it al­lows to stay.

Swedish po­lice said Sun­day they had re­ceived roughly 12,500 re­fer­rals from the Swedish Mi­gra­tion Board of peo­ple who, like the sus­pect in the truck at­tack, had over­stayed their wel­come.

The sus­pect eluded au­thor­i­ties by giv­ing po­lice a wrong ad­dress af­ter his res­i­dency re­quest was re­jected in June 2016, said Mr. Hys­ing, the op­er­a­tive head of the at­tack in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“The ef­forts to lo­cate [these peo­ple] is both time-con­sum­ing and re­source-in­ten­sive,” he said.

Na­tional Co­or­di­na­tor Against Vi­o­lent Ex­trem­ism Anna Carl­st­edt, who used to lead the Red Cross in Swe­den, said Fri­day’s at­tack and the back­ground of the sus­pect posed “dif­fi­cult ques­tions.”

“Do we some­how need a more re­pres­sive pol­icy?” Ms. Carl­st­edt said. “I think it is very im­por­tant now not to rush into some­thing, to see how we can safe­guard this open so­ci­ety and still be able to pro­tect our­selves.”

The range of mixed emo­tions — fear and fra­ter­nity, anger and open­ness, — also sur­faced at memo­rial ser­vices and ral­lies held in Stock­holm on Sun­day to honor the at­tack vic­tims.

Lars Holm, a 73-year-old Stock­holm res­i­dent was vis­i­bly up­set, af­ter at­tend­ing a ser­vice at Stock­holm Cathe­dral.

“If peo­ple who are here seek­ing asy­lum and treat us like this, it is not good,” Holm said. “So now we have to have more se­cu­rity in our so­ci­ety, but still we don’t like to live in bunkers.”

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