By John Walsh
For the past few decades, Sweden has welcomed those escaping persecution and oppression in despotic regimes. In fact, the country boasts one of the largest refugee populations in relation to its size, according to Al Jazeera. CNN reported that Sweden took in more than 160,000 asylum seekers in 2015. In a complete reversal of character, however, Swedish authorities have decided to expel up to 80,000 refugees this year, according to CNN.
This was announced after several controversies have stirred up relations between the Swedish population and refugees, including the alleged murder of refugee center worker Alexandra Mezher by a teenage asylum seeker, Independent reported, as well as the burning of two refugee shelters in 2013 and outcry over the poor conditions in many of the refugee centers. These events have left some to believe that xenophobia and political tensions have been the reason behind the decision to remove the refugees, including the anti-immigration party, the Swedish Democrats, that has risen in popularity, according to CNN.
Just this year, Hungary Prime Minister Viktor Orbán ordered the construction of a fence on the border of Serbia to block out illegal immigrants, PBS reported. Germany declared Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia “safe countries of origin,” in order to stem the influx of migrants, according to Time magazine. In another attempt to deter immigrants, the Danish parliament passed a law that enforces the confiscation of individual refugee assets worth more than 10,000 kroner ($1,450).
However, another salient argument exists for the Swedish authorities’ decision: simply that Sweden cannot take in that many immigrants as it does not have the wherewithal to do so. According to the Guardian, both Sweden and Finland “receive among the highest numbers of (refugees) per capita.” According to Al Jazeera, the conditions in many of the centers are overcrowded and full of vast numbers of unaccompanied refugee minors. The problem at hand was best put by Swedish Minister for Justice and Migration Morgan Johansson when he told the Washington Post, “(Sweden is) willing to do more than anyone else, but even we have our limits.”
Whatever the reason may be, this legislation has sparked intense argument in the Swedish Riksdag, the national Swedish legislature, the Washington Post reported. Provocative comments made by several members of the far-right Sweden Democrats have brought animosity to a previously less argumentative Riksdag. One of the most provocative was by Markus Wiechel, a member of the Riksdag, who stated, “We need to send the signal that people wanting to come here are not welcome” the Washington Post reported.
The left-leaning Social Democrats support the assistance of the refugees and the admonishment of those who would seek to abandon those in dire need of compassionate legislative action. In response to the xenophobia of the Sweden Democrats, Johansson, a Social Democrat, told the Washington Post that, “(Sweden does) not see the refugees as burdens. These are people who are assets for Sweden.”