COVID-19 spotlights Swedish segregation
STOCKHOLM: People in Sweden with foreign backgrounds are disproportionately affected by the new coronavirus, underscoring the grim reality of segregation and raising fears that a “blind spot” is masking some communities. The wealthy Scandinavian country of 10.3 million has a generous immigration policy, granting asylum and family reunifications to more than 400,000 people in 2010-2019, Migration Board statistics show.
But Sweden has struggled to integrate many of the newcomers, with thousands failing to learn the language proficiently and find jobs in its highly-skilled labor market. Many end up living in disadvantaged neighborhoods outside big cities, where little Swedish is spoken and unemployment and crime rates are high.
Earlier this week, the country’s Public Health Agency reported that Somali-born residents in Sweden were over-represented among those in need of hospital care for COVID-19, as were people born in Eritrea, Finland, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey and the former Yugoslavia. “For us the main signal is really that we need to reach those groups better with different kinds of messages to help protect them,” state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell told AFP, conceding that authorities don’t know the reason for their over-representation.
Stockholm accounts for over 40 percent of Sweden’s more than 13,000 COVID-19 cases. Figures released last week by the capital showed that some poorer neighborhoods had up to three times as many cases per capita. Those municipalities are home to several of Sweden’s “vulnerable areas,” a designation originally assigned by Swedish police to socio-economically disadvantaged areas with high levels of crime. — AFP