These days, Malmö is in the headlines for the wrong reasons. The third-largest city in Sweden is often held up by far-right politicians as an example of failed refugee and integration policies.
Supporters of multi-culturalism point out that, in many way, the influx of refugees to Malmö has been enormously positive. The city has recovered from its 1980s slump, when its population was actually falling due to emigration, and new businesses are opening all the time.
The claims that Malmö has become the “rape capital” of Europe also appear unfounded, as rates across Sweden are high because of stricter rules around how rapes are reported, and the rate of reported rapes has in fact declined from its peak in 2010, before the most recent refugee crisis.
Nevertheless, there are problems in Malmö; for example, the unemployment rate for foreign-born men is 30%, much higher than the national average of 8%.
In order to take a closer look at the local impact of the refugee crisis, we launched our ‘Cities & Refugees‘ project – aimed at fostering a Europe-wide dialogue between citizens, refugees and asylum seekers, NGOs, politicians, and European leaders. The emphasis will be on connecting local, everyday life at the city level to decisions made in Brussels and national capitals.
Sweden has taken in more refugees per capita than any other Western country. This influx has led to political pressure from the far-right, who argue that the country has been too liberal with its refugee policy.
The far-right Sweden Democrats (SD) have increased their popularity at every national election since the party entered the Riksdagen (the Swedish Parliament); from 2.9% of votes in 2006, to 5.7% in 2010, and 12.9% in the most recent elections in 2014. In the upcoming elections in 2018, they are predicted to take from 17-26%. Malmö, with its large foreign-born population, is also a stronghold for the SD.
In February 2017, US President Donald Trump was mocked online for referring to a non-existent terror attack in Sweden. Six weeks later, Trump’s supporters felt vindicated when an actual attack took place in Stockholm, killing three people. Our readers, including Ahmed and Ivan, where divided about which side was right. So, what do people think in Sweden? Do Swedes feel the refugee crisis is as bad as President Trump is making out?
To get a reaction, we spoke to Anders Hellström, a senior lecturer at Malmö University whose research focus includes the politics of multi-culturalism and neo-nationalism in Scandinavia. What would he say?
We also had a comment from Michael, who told us a story about his grandmother’s experience in Malmö.
My grandmother was a refugee who lived in Malmö after the war and she described it as an idyllic place, so safe that people would leave their doors unlocked. She told me she had once found a wallet someone had left on their seat and took it to the local police station so they might find the owner, but that this was nothing extraordinary for the time. Can you imagine such a story in today’s Malmö, with grenades flying through the windows? I would actually be too afraid to visit my grandmother’s post-war home nowadays because it is now one of the most violent parts of Europe.
Michael thinks safety fears are behind the rise in the vote for the far-right. Is he right? We asked Anders Hellström to respond.
Is the refugee crisis boosting the far-right? Are safety fears are behind the rise in the vote for the far-right in Malmö? Do Swedes feel the refugee crisis is as bad as President Trump says? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take it to policymakers and experts for their reactions!