COVID-19 spot­lights Swedish seg­re­ga­tion

Kuwait Times - - Lo­cal -

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

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