Stories from Sweden,
the Humanitarian Superpower
# 17

the country that grants the highest number of residence permits to asylum seekers in the EU and has its own view on the word “democracy”

“Sweden is a humanitarian superpower.”
Carl Bildt, Foreign Minister and Fredrik Reinfeldt, Prime Minister, Sweden

Excerpt from an article published in Newsweek on 13 August 2014:

I realise two things – first, that only relatively well-off Syrians can afford the thousands of euros in smuggling costs and fake documents to get to Europe, and second, that there is an entrenched hierarchy of target destinations. The original Europe-bound trail-blazers three years ago conducted careful online research of the relative asylum and family reunification policies of each EU country and chose their final destination accordingly. The list has, at this point, become legend among the huge network of Syrians streaming westwards and the rough order is as follows: Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany and Austria, followed by more distant countries like the UK or less economically attractive or hospitable countries like Spain and Italy.
The Syrians I speak to are particularly evangelical about Sweden, because of the citizenship granted after a few years of residence, and the free education there.

For years, actually for far more than a decade, Sweden has been known all over the world — and especially in those countries that the asylum seekers come from — to be the most generous asylum country of all. Hundreds and thousands of people — some of them refugees or people in need of special protection, many of them not — have chosen to seek refuge or to try their luck with fake identities and fake stories in Sweden. In fact:

2013 Sweden (population 9,5 million) received 4,5 times more more asylum seekers per capita than Germany (population 82 million). The Germans were worried and in article in Spiegel On Line — Rage and Refuge: German Asylum System Hits Breaking Point — it is said that

Germany has recently seen a significant rise in the number of asylum seekers arriving in the country. Its shelters are overwhelmed and opposition to new ones has recently turned ugly. Refugees themselves argue that the system is broken.

During the period January-July 2014, Sweden has received more than three times as many asylum seekers (in factual numbers) as the three Nordic countries Denmark, Norway and Finland — combined. In fact: there are so many coming to Sweden that the Prime Minister, Mr Fredrik Reinfeldt, who has been in office for eight years, has (finally) has deemed it necessary to inform the people, that during the coming four years after the election that takes place on 14 September, there will be no room for any improvements or reforms in the country because of the costs for all the people coming to Sweden as asylum seekers.

Many of the asylum seekers — especially those who are used to much better living conditions — are appalled by what awaits them in Sweden. The fact that 300–350 people arrive every day (!), is an unimaginable strain on the municipalities that are supposed to receive them and put a roof over their heads. It also puts overwhelming pressure on the Swedish society: its people, the Migration Board and migration courts, schools, doctors and hospitals, dentists, Police etc.

New asylum camps/centres are needed at an unprecedented speed and just abut anyone who owns a small hotel or motel or any kind of house that can quickly be converted into a asylum camp/centre, is there to offer their services. many bunkbeds are placed into small rooms, that way the owners can maximize their profits — up to 40–50 % profit (from tax money) is not uncommon. Some places, like the one I myself visited recently together with a Parliamentarian and another politician, are equipped with four beds (two bunkbeds) in rooms as small as around 10–12 square metres and six beds (=three bunkbeds) in rooms only slightly bigger, like 18–20 square metres. And nothing else than, perhaps, a plastic chair. One plastic chair… Four or six grown men from different countries, with different religious beliefs and cultures who do not know each other, who maybe traumatized or have some kind of contagious disease (the asylum seekers are not examined by doctors as a rule…), are just thrown into these kinds of inhuman living conditions for incalculable time. Because there is nothing better to offer.

Many of the asylum seekers are shocked and appalled at the living conditions. Not all of those who seek asylum in Sweden are poor (on the contrary!), which the Swedes narrow mindedly seem to think; many were used to big houses and gardens, some also had servants and quite good lives in their home countries. They never expected to see this kind of really bad accommodation, and certainly not in Sweden. Some of them left their countries and their homes because they had to, for reasons such as war and bombings and killings and persecution. And they wanted to come to Sweden because they had the idea that

1) Sweden is the most humanitarian place on earth (not true)
2) Sweden has a high standard of living (not for asylum seekers and not even for all of its own people)
3) Sweden offers free education and almost free health care, surgery and medicines (true)
4) Sweden is the only country in the world that grants permanent residence permits to all Syrians without even investigating if they are in need of it or not
5) Swedens’ asylum process is rather easy to go through with false papers and a false asylum story (true).

Sweden is on her/his knees because of the many asylum seekers and refugees that are entering into the country: 300–350 people every day according to the Migration Board. Even the Prime Minister, who must have known about it and seen it coming for a long time, has finally admitted that things are getting out of hand. Still: he does not propose any restrictions for asylum seeking foreigners from countries outside Europe from coming to Sweden. On the contrary, his message to his own people is clear:

I know that this will cause friction. I therefore call on the Swedish people to show patience and open their hearts.

I can already say that there will be substantial costs to receive these people. They are so many that it will put further restrictions on what can be paid for by public funds. Therefore we promise hardly anything in this election, there will be no room for it.

Here are pictures of what many asylum camps in Sweden look like. Not all, but many. These photos are from my reports (in Swedish) from a particular camp, one of many similar, called Blinkarp in southern Sweden. Blinkarp is situated in the middle of nowhere in the countryside with no transport to the village…

Small, prison cell like room with two bunk beds
for four men.
Small, prison cell like room with three bunkbeds
for six men.

Finally: Sweden can, and should, continue accepting refugees and grant them temporary or permanent residence permits in accordance with their needs and what the situation in their home country is like.

The Swedes do have big and open hearts and they do welcome refugees, those who are really in need of asylum or protection. But their hearts are not open to the 85 % or more who are asking for asylum but do not show passports or id-cards to prove their identity and nationality. A country must know who it allows to stay within its borders and the asylum process in Sweden is not making the necessary investigations.

The Prime Minister has been in office for eight years and the problem with no id-cards, no passports has been known to him during all these years. To expect people to open their hearts when they have no idea who the person is who is applying for residence permit and, further along the line, for citizenship, is not fair. The Prime Minister is asking for too much.