Suspect’s refugee status stuns Stockholm
In 2016, he had asked for residence permit
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.”