THE RIOTS IN STOCKHOLM: A COMMENT
"The sight of burning cars in a dozen suburbs of Stockholm on Tuesday night has shocked Sweden and shaken its image of tolerance and equality. But the rioting is also raising a simple, devastating question: is Sweden facing its own Paris or London moment when it is forced to confront long-simmering questions about the integration of immigrants? “This is a wake-up call for decision makers and Swedish society as a whole,” says Awad Hersi, a Stockholm city councillor from near where the riots started. But Mr Hersi, of Somali origin, argues that the situation is not yet as serious as it was in London in 2011 or Paris in 2005. “There are differences with Stockholm: the scale, the methods are different. Stockholm still has a chance but it is a matter of time.” Police on Wednesday were drafting in reinforcements to prepare for a potential fourth night of unrest. What started in the north-western suburb of Husby had by Tuesday night spread to about a dozen different suburbs north and south of Stockholm. The rioters were reported to be mostly young immigrants of African and Middle Eastern origin. There appeared little co-ordination between the outbreaks of unrest, which mostly involved torching cars or attacking buildings and stoning the emergency services. “We are grubby and totally shattered. It is burning everywhere,” one policeman told Swedish TV. The unrest has provoked intense soul-searching in a country that prides itself for both its generous welfare state and open immigration policy. Sweden accepted 44,000 asylum seekers in 2012, up by nearly a half from a year earlier. Among industrial countries, it has the second-largest amount of asylum seekers relative to its population, according to UN figures. Sweden prides itself on treating them well, offering them benefits and housing as well as free Swedish lessons on arrival. But now some are questioning whether that is enough. The big problem in a suburb such as Husby, where immigrants represent about 80 per cent of the population, is unemployment, particularly among the young. Swedish youth unemployment stands at 25.1 per cent, about triple the level of overall joblessness. And much of that youth unemployment is concentrated among immigrants from countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan or Syria. “Sweden isn’t that different to other countries when it comes to problems of integration in larger cities where we have these suburbs with a lot of unemployment,” says Per Adman, an associate professor at Uppsala university. He points out that the media often refers to “unemployed young men” without specifying that they are predominantly immigrants. The riots may have reopened the debate but Mr Adman sees a society divided in its reaction to them. “Some people claim this is just criminals acting; others say it’s a result of segregation,” he says. On the ground in Husby, there is no surprise that the response tends towards the latter. Mr Hersi condemns the violence but says: “The violence we have seen is just a symptom, it is not a root cause. The root cause is that in this area the young men especially feel that they don’t have the same opportunities. Most of them if you ask them don’t want anything more than a job to go to in the morning.” That discrepancy between opportunities for those born in Sweden and outside was also underlined by the OECD in its most recent report on the country. It found that the unemployment rate for Swedish-born people was about 6 per cent against about 16 per cent for those born abroad. Immigration experts say the pattern of Swedish immigration has also changed. After the war, the country wanted low-skilled workers for its manufacturing plants, while now it faces an influx of asylum seekers with little education who have difficulty finding a job. This has coincided with a jump in inequality. Although Sweden is still one of the most egalitarian countries in the world, it has experienced the biggest rise in inequality in the past 15 years. “Historically, Swedish society has been very homogenous. But over the past 10 years there has been a big shift and some suburbs now are ‘world villages’. The development has gone very fast and much of society hasn’t understood the nature of the situation,” Mr Hersi says."Richard Milne, "Stockholm riots raise questions about immigration policy." The Financial Times. 22 May 2013, in www.ft.com.
"As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding. Like the Roman, I seem to see ‘the River Tiber foaming with much blood’. That tragic and intractable phenomenon which we watch with horror on the other side of the Atlantic but which there is interwoven with the history and existence of the States itself, is coming upon us here by our own volition and our own neglect. Indeed, it has all but come. In numerical terms, it will be of American proportions long before the end of the century. Only resolute and urgent action will avert it even now. Whether there will be the public will to demand and obtain that action, I do not know. All I know is that to see, and not to speak, would be the great betrayal."Enoch Powell, "Annual meeting of the West Midlands Conservative Political Centre, Birmingham." 20 April 1968. The predictability of what is occurring in Sweden is disgustingly obvious. An intelligent and wise government would have taken steps, many, many years ago (at least twenty-five) to prevent a repeat of the problems that occurred in London and Paris from taking root in what was in many ways (Socialism aside) an idyllic land. Now of course the situation is infinitely much more complex and difficult to handle. There are x percentage of the population which while of third-world background were born and brought up in Sweden. For them the means of resolving the problem (insofar as it can be resolved...) is via integration and support. The former being of course infinitely more difficult than the latter. Especially since per se, the people rioting in Sweden are not actually deprived, much less starving. They live for the most part, semi-comfortable if alienated existences. Unfortunately, integration, insofar as it will work at all, will take years and years to change things. In the meantime, the authorities must, repeat must take a strong arm to handle this situation. Which means concretely: a massive police and perhaps army presence, night-time curfews, and large-scale deportations of any immigrants arrested in the riots. I for one would agree that such tactics cannot be in the long run a solution, it is more akin to a pis aller. But as the late Lord Keynes aptly put it: 'in the long run we are all dead.'And like the rest of Europe, Sweden is reaping the costs of not listening to the wise words of the late, great Enoch Powell.