STOCKHOLM — In 2015, people marched in the streets of Sweden waving banners that read “Refugees Welcome,” and Prime Minister Stefan Löfven talked about helping “when the need is great.” Little more than a year later, the Swedish government implemented border controls to slow the flow of people seeking asylum.
Here are ten facts about refugees in Sweden that may be surprising:
- In 2015 Sweden received more than 160,000 refugees requesting asylum per capita; more than any other European country.
- Organizations that help refugees integrate into Swedish society include Kompis Sverige (Swedish Buddies). Kompis Sverige is a service that introduces refugees in Sweden to residents who have lived in the country for an extended period. It helps them make friends and prevents feelings of isolation or exclusion. Another organization includes Invitations Departementet (The Department of Invitations). This department connects refugees with people who speak Swedish. Refugees are invited to share a meal while improving their language skills. This group helps prevent feelings of isolation and exclusion.
- Between 2012 and 2015, Sweden granted asylum to 101,925 refugees – that is about 1 percent of the country’s total population.
- The U.S. State Department reports a 7 percent rise in crime between 2012 and 2015. Crimes with the highest increases include vandalism and computer-based fraud. During this same period, Muslims were more often victims of hate crimes than perpetrators – crimes against Muslims increased by 90 percent.
- Studies indicate that Bosnians integrate well into Swedish society.
- Seventeen percent of the foreign-born population in Sweden is from Finland.
- The labor force participation rate of native-born citizens is 82 percent versus the labor force participation rate of foreign-born residents of 57 percent.
- Economist Tino Sanandaii estimates that Sweden spends 1.5 percent of its GDP on asylum seekers. This spending is twice the entire budget of the United Nations High Commissioner who is responsible for refugees worldwide.
- The Kantor Center report indicates that crimes against refugees in Sweden in 2015 included 43 arson attacks on asylum seeker accommodations. The same report for 2016 shows that a group of masked men dressed in black attacked people who looked “foreign” in Stockholm.
- On May 4, 2017, the government stopped doing ID checks on buses, trains, and ferries traveling between Sweden and Denmark. In the four days following the stop, border police detected 24 people seeking asylum. The 24 people seeking refuge indicates an increase over the average of 5 per week during the first part of the year. Migrationsverket predicts that the elimination of ID checks will result in an increase in the number of people seeking asylum. The agency’s previous forecast predicted a decrease in the number of people expected to apply for asylum. The group currently estimates that it will be 34,700 people seeking refuge.
Many of the ten facts about refugees in Sweeden have roots in the fear that Swedes are losing their culture and identity. In many cases, the media has fueled these concerns by portraying immigrants as a problem. Policies that promote exclusion can only add to growing tensions.
– Mary Barringer