[Marxism] Not in My Backyard? Mainstream Scandinavia Warily Eyes Record Immigration

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Feb 19 07:27:56 MST 2016

REUTERS, FEB. 16, 2016
Not in My Backyard? Mainstream Scandinavia Warily Eyes Record Immigration

OSLO-STOCKHOLM — Norwegian officials called the school guards "extra 
supervision". Critics said the plan to post security personnel near an 
Oslo school in case of assaults by newly arrived refugees was an ugly 
euphemism for intolerance.

Across the border in the far northern Swedish town of Kalix, a 
traditional bastion of center-left politics, over 100 residents signed a 
petition against plans to turn a 19th century country house into a 
reception center for unaccompanied minors.

The debate among these liberal Scandinavian stalwarts would have been 
unheard of a year ago, underscoring how concern about a record influx of 
immigrants is percolating into the Nordics' mainstream from the populist 

Anti-immigrant, populist parties have gained support since some 250,000 
refugees entered the Nordics last year. A record 163,000 refugees 
arrived in Sweden and the far right is vying for top spot in polls. In 
Denmark, the anti-immigration Danish People’s Party is the second 
largest in parliament.

But it is a backlash among the mainstream that may be the biggest 
change. There are signs that voters may be broadly supportive of 
immigrants but not in their own backyard. From welfare cuts to new ID 
checks, it is a trend that shows the limits of even some of Europe’s 
most open societies, and may represent a sea change for politics in 

"It's a big change happening close to us. In all neighborhoods there are 
concerns," said Pia Almvang, head of the parents' association at Lysaker 
primary school in a leafy well-to-do area of villas near Oslo, cut 
through by a motorway with cheaper four-storey blocks of flats built 

"The parents just want to look after their kids."

The town council agreed to parents' requests for extra security by a 
motorway underpass near a refugee center for 600 people that opened this 
month. After criticisms of "asylum guards" the proposal was withdrawn, 
but it had already polarized this middle class community.

A February survey showed immigration as the main concern for 40 percent 
of Swedes, easily trumping worries over failing schools, joblessness and 
welfare. The change over half a year was the biggest opinion swing in 
the poll's history.

 From taking in Vietnam draft dodgers in the 1960s to Balkans war 
refugees in the 1990s, Sweden has been proud of its open door policy for 
decades. Norway has been among the leaders in helping refugees worldwide 
with aid.

While the asylum situation has led to an outpouring of support from many 
Swedes - charities reported record donations last year - it has also led 
others to worry about the effect on schools, crime and the country's 
welfare state.


In Kalix, hit by a decline in the paper industry but still a bastion of 
Social Democrat support, residents have petitioned the council to 
abandon plans for a center for around 30 unaccompanied children.

"I have a big heart and I believe we have to help, so it's not about 
that, but enough is enough," said Anne-Maj Ostlund, a 75-year-old 
retired school teacher who lives close to the yellow-painted wooden 
villa in Kalix, being used as a hostel

"I have lived in heaven here ... it is peaceful," said Ostlund, who has 
lived in the same house since 1948. "What is going to be left?"

Middle class neighborhoods in Stockholm and Gothenburg have seen 
meetings where furious citizens have questioned politicians over 
refugees' housing.

Police were called to one meeting in Haninge, near Stockholm, where the 
local authority had gathered residents and parents of pupils at a nearby 
school to inform them about plans for a center for unaccompanied minors.

Council workers were met by shouts of "they are going to rape our 
children," and "who will take responsibility when someone dies".

Mainstream parties in Sweden are now proposing measures against 
immigration that were only the ground of the far right a few years ago. 
Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, who once told crowds that "My Europe does 
not build walls", tightened asylum rules and border controls with ID checks.

In Denmark a bill tightening immigration laws, including the 
confiscation of refugees’ valuables, passed with overwhelming support 
including the center-left Social Democrats.

Sweden's Moderate Party, the biggest of the center-right opposition, 
wants to limit asylum seekers' access to welfare.

It was a sign of the times that when Sweden's center left interior 
minister said the government would deport 80,000 immigrants this year, 
former Foreign Minister Carl Bildt tweeted the "probable aim is to send 
a signal that new ones are not welcome."

The concerns are not just related to security but that the Nordic state 
is under threat from the high fiscal cost of newcomers and the sense 
that civic trust which underpins a culture of high taxes is being eroded.

Nordic nations have the highest percentage of people agreeing that "most 
people can be trusted" when asked in international surveys, helping 
drive a consensus for high taxes and extensive welfare.

"The Nordic welfare state works due to trust. You have to trust that 
people work and pay taxes when they are able to do so," said Gert 
Tinggaard, professor of political science at Denmark's Aarhus University.

"The second condition is that you also have to trust the politicians," 
he added. "You get a bang for your buck."

The IMF estimates that Sweden will spend 1.0 percent of its gross 
domestic product on asylum seekers in 2016, by far the highest of 19 
European nations surveyed.

Last year, Sweden had to find an extra 70,000 school places due to 
asylum seekers, on top of 100,000 pupils that normally enter the school 
system for the first time in any given year.

In a country where speaking out against immigration is still taboo for 
many, Scandinavians privately voice concerns about signs of crowded 
emergency rooms and larger school classes. Newspapers are increasingly 
full of reports of money being spent on refugees and reports of crime 
involving asylum seekers, although crime figures do not bear out these 

Lofven - who admits Sweden faces increased polarization - has seen his 
government's support fall to record lows in polls due to a sense his 
government is helpless to stop a migrant influx.

For Ylva Johansson, Swedish minister for employment and integration 
issues, the problem is that thousands of refugees, many young men, are 
not integrated into the workforce, instead languishing in asylum centers 
in villages and towns.

"Most Swedes are not racist," she said. "But when there is this special 
asylum housing when they cannot work, and cannot be part of society this 
is really a tension.

"This is a dangerous situation," she added. "We have a lot of people in 
no man's land .. living outside society."

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