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The need for labour has traditionally led Sweden to welcome waves of immigrants; Sectors of society today experience it as a problem

Oresund Bridge, between Denmark and Sweden, seen from Swedish territory [Wikipedia]

▲ Oresund Bridge, between Denmark and Sweden, seen from Swedish territory [Wikipedia]

ANALYSIS / Jokin de Carlos

Sweden has had a reputation, since World War II, for being a country open to immigrants and for developing tolerant and open social policies. However, the increase in issue The slow cultural adaptation of some of these new communities, especially the Muslims, and the problems of violence generated in areas of greater vulnerability have led to an intense discussion in Swedish society. The view that a generous migration policy may be destroying Swedish identity and making life more difficult for native Swedes has fuelled the vote of some civil service examination The Social Democrats last year revalidated public support for a government that maintains traditional policies with a certain greater emphasis on the expulsion of those whose application has been rejected.

Migration policy

One of Sweden's historical problems has been its leave By the 1960s, the fertility rate had fallen to the threshold of 2.1 children per woman needed for population replacement. That was something that threatened Sweden's notorious welfare state, because of the need for tax revenues to maintain generous public services, so the country promoted the influx of immigrants. At the same time, the need for manpower was also raised by the development of the national industry.

Sweden emerged from World War II in good condition. It did not suffer the destruction of other nations, as it remained territorially on the margins of the conflict, and it was able to consolidate a metallurgical industry that, thanks to the production of its iron mines, had benefited from selling to both sides in the war. That development required a great deal of work that the leave The concentration of the population on the coast and in the south, outside the industrial centres, made it difficult to gather. In addition, Sweden's welfare state and continued decades of peace created a class average that he did not want to work in the new industry because of the low wages it offered to be competitive.

To solve the labor shortage and thus maintain economic progress, Sweden turned to immigration since the 1950s. The government first opened the border to asylum seekers or work and then built clusters of dwellings, usually of leave near industrial areas where newcomers could find jobs without any language. When the cultural impact of these additions was too great in some areas, the government proceeded to close the borders, restricting immigration. When new workers were needed, the government reopened the border.

This system helped to advance economically, but it also isolated many social groups, who were stuck in low-income areas with little possibility of development or social integration.

development historical

Both during and after World War II, Sweden was an important destination for people from Norway, Denmark, Poland, Finland and the Baltic Republics escaping war or the destruction it created; It was also a neutral destination for many Jews. In 1944, there were more than 40,000 refugees in Sweden; While many returned to their countries after the war, a group A considerable number of them remained, mainly Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians, whose home nations were incorporated into the USSR.

In 1952, Sweden, Denmark and Norway formed the committee Nordic, creating a area of free trade and freedom of movement, which Finland joined in 1955. With this, thousands of migrants went to Sweden to work in the industry, mainly from Finland but also from Norway, which had not yet discovered its oil reserves. This increased the percentage of the immigrant population from 2% in 1945 to 7% in 1970. All this helped Tage Erlander (Prime Minister of Sweden from 1946 to 1969) to create the project "Strong Society", aimed at increasing the public sector and the welfare state. However, this influx of labour began to harm native Swedish workers, and consequently, in 1967, trade unions began to pressure Erlander to limit labour immigration to the Nordic countries.

In 1969, Erlander resigned from the position and was replaced by his protégé, Olof Palme. Palme was a member of the most radical wing of the Social Democrats and wanted to further increase the welfare state, continuing the project of its predecessor on a larger scale.

In order to attract a larger workforce without angering unions, Palme began using pro-refugee rhetoric, opening Sweden's borders to people escaping dictatorships and war. At the same time, these people would be moved to industrial neighborhoods, built especially for them in nearby industrial areas where they would work. At the same time, Palme sought to make Sweden an attractive country for immigrants through assimilation policies in favor of multiculturalism.

During this period, people of many nationalities began to arrive in the country: from those fleeing conflict in Yugoslavia or martial law in Poland to those fleeing the Middle East and Latin America. These new populations settled far from native Swedish demographics; Because of this, many neighborhoods in the class They became isolated ghettos. In 1986, Palme was assassinated and his successor, Ingvar Carlsson, changed immigration policy and began accepting only those they configured as refugees from the United States. agreement with United Nations standards.

During the 1990s, increased conflicts in places like Somalia, Yugoslavia, and several African nations increased the flow of war refugees, with many of them going to Sweden. The Ministry of Migration and Asylum Policy was established in 1996. However, the two largest movements of people from foreign countries would occur in the wake of the subsequent conflicts in Iraq and Syria. The conservative government of Fredrik Reinfeldt began taking in a large volume of Iraqi refugees, who in 2006 became the country's second-largest minority, after the Finns. In 2015, the Social Democratic government of Stefan Löfven opened the border to Syrian refugees, who arrived en masse, fleeing the Syrian Civil War and the push of Daesh.

This succession of waves of immigrants from the Middle East aggravated some problems: in many neighborhoods, outsiders don't feel like they're in Sweden, mainly because they were built to "not be Sweden"; In addition, difficult integration and low-paying jobs fuel gangs and organized crime. All of this led Löfven to implement a stricter migration policy in 2017, accepting fewer asylum seekers and beginning to expel those whose asylum claims had been denied.

As you can see, the trend in Sweden is to open borders to immigration when it is needed and to close them when it starts to cause social tensions.

Origins of the Immigrant Population

Sweden has become a very ethnically diverse society, where almost 22% of the population has a foreign background. Until 2015, the largest ethnic minority in the country were Finns, who numbered more than 200,000 at the end of the last century. In the wake of the war in Iraq and the Syrian migration crisis, people from the Middle East have become the largest group.

Currently, 8% of the inhabitants of Sweden come from a country with a Muslim majority – mainly from Syria and Iraq, but also from Iran – although only 1.4% of the population practices the Muslim religion (around 140,000 people in 2017), as there are also immigrants from these countries with other religious affiliations. such as Christians, Druze, Yazidis or Zoroastrians. These numbers may have increased slightly, though not to cause very drastic changes in demographics.

Despite not being particularly numerous, the Muslim community has generated media attention as a result of various controversies. In 2006, Mahmoud Aldebe, a member of the committee A Muslim from Sweden, he put forward in a letter to the political parties of the Riksdag and the Swedish government especially controversial demands, such as the right to specific Islamic holidays, special public funding for the construction of mosques, that all divorces between Muslim couples be approved by an imam, and that imams be allowed to teach Islam to Muslim children in public schools. These demands were rejected by the authorities and the class Sweden's politics. It has also been the case that some Muslim associations or mosques have invited radical preachers, such as Haitham al-Haddad or Said Rageahs, whose lectures were eventually banned.

Vulnerable Areas and Organized Crime

The Swedish government has designated some neighbourhoods as Vulnerable Areas (Utsatt Område). They are not strictly "No-Go Zones", because they can be entered by police officers, health services or the media. These are areas of lower security that require greater attention from the authorities.

Some of them are located in Malmö, the city with the highest crime rate in the country, mainly due to its location. Malmö is located on the other side of the Oresund Bridge, which connects Denmark to Sweden and is the only overland route between Sweden and the mainland without having to go around the Baltic. There, various gangs and mafias participate in drug and human trafficking, while at the same time confronting each other in a struggle for control of space. Groups of this subject they also operate in Rotterdam, in relation to the activity generated by its important port.

Despite the impression given by certain anti-immigration messages, crime in Sweden is at levels similar to those of 2006. After that year, the issue crime prices fell, only to rise again in 2010 and 2012. A link could be made between this rise and the economic crisis, which led to an increase in unemployment, but its link to immigration records is less clear. The arrival of Iraqis in 2005 did not lead to greater insecurity on the streets of Sweden, nor has the reception of Syrians in recent years. Sweden's homicide rate is 1.1 per 100,000 inhabitants – below many other European countries – and there are more crimes recorded by native Swedes than by foreigners, according to the committee Swedish National Crime Prevention.

However, the mafias operating in Sweden are mostly made up of certain ethnic groups. His training it stemmed especially from the influx of people from Yugoslavia, both workers in the 1970s and refugees from the Balkan wars of the 1990s. Chief among these groups, known as the Yugo Mafia, is today led by Milan Ševo, nicknamed "The Godfather of Stockholm." Other groups include K-Falangen and Naserligan, composed of Albanians; the Werefolf Legion, made up of South Americans, and the Gangsters, originally made up of the Assyrians (Syria's Christian minority). However, one of the largest is Brödraskapet or the Brotherhood, founded in 1995, with more than 700 members who are all native Swedes and with a large presence in Swedish prisons.


Migratory movements in Sweden between 1850 and 2007. In red, arrival of immigrants; in blue, departure of emigrants [Wikipedia-Koyos]

Migratory movements in Sweden between 1850 and 2007. In red, arrival of immigrants; in blue, departure of emigrants [Wikipedia-Koyos]



Since 2011 there have been three terrorist attacks in Sweden; A fourth attack could have been avoided as its preparation was detected in time. The first was made by Anton Lundin Pettersson, a Swedish neo-Nazi who in 2015 attacked the Trollhättan School, killing four people, all of them immigrants. The next was perpetrated by the Nordic Resistance Movement, a neo-Nazi organization, which acted against a refugee center and the café of a left-wing organization; Only one person was injured in the attack. The third, the most well-known, was perpetrated in 2017 by a man from Uzbekistan apparently recruited by Daesh, who rammed a truck into pedestrians in central Stockholm, killing five people and injuring fourteen.

Of the three attacks, only one was jihadist-motivated, unlike the weight that Islamist terrorism has had in other European countries with larger Muslim populations. In any case, the segregation experienced in some communities and the radical indoctrination that takes place in them led young Swedish Muslims to go to Syria to join Daesh and the authorities are closely monitoring their possible return.

Hits and misses

For a long time, the European left held up Sweden as an example of model successful social democrat; Now, from certain right-wing groups, he is held up as an example of failed multiculturalism. Both statements are probably an exaggeration for partisan purposes. However, the truth is that Sweden has a generous well-being that is difficult to maintain, and that in its also generous opening of borders it has made mistakes that have not facilitated the integration of the new population. Everything seems to indicate that Löfven continues the path he began in 2017 and there has been an increase in police presence on the streets as well as a hardening of immigration policies, in turn following the policies made in Denmark.

Time will have to pass to see what results these policies will have in a future Sweden.

In Norse mythology, Valhalla is a huge, majestic hall that, in the afterlife, heroes aspire to enter

Categories Global Affairs: European Union World order, diplomacy and governance Analysis