Swedish Nationalists Rise as Record Immigration Stirs Backlash

The Sweden Democrats, a nationalist
party that targets deep cuts to immigration, is poised to double
its support in elections next month as Swedes prepare for a
change of government.

Several polls show the party garnering more than 10 percent
of votes, enough to ensure that neither the government of Prime
Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt nor the Social Democrat-led
opposition can win a majority on Sept. 14. Both blocs have
refused to collaborate with the Sweden Democrats, even as the
electorate tries to drag the group into the mainstream.

Support for the party, which came into being in the 1980s
following a merger of political movements including a group
called Keep Sweden Swedish, has swelled as the country absorbs a
growing number of immigrants and asylum seekers from the Middle
. The development casts a shadow over Sweden’s reputation as
an open society that has regularly topped United Nations
rankings in accepting asylum seekers.

“We’re becoming more tolerant toward immigration but at
the same time there’s very strong, broad opposition against our
liberal policies,” said Andrej Kokkonen, a researcher at
Gothenburg University. “The Sweden Democrats have capitalized
on that.”

Immigration Jump

Sweden expects more than 80,000 asylum seekers this year,
after a 70 percent jump in the first six months. Refugees are
entering the country at a pace not seen since the breakup of
Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, according to the Migration Board
in Stockholm.

The government is urging Swedes to take a more
compassionate view towards asylum seekers in an effort to turn
the xenophobic tide.

“I’m now pleading with the Swedish people to have
patience, to open your hearts, to see people in high distress
whose lives are being threatened,” Reinfeldt said in a speech
on Aug. 16. “Show them that openness, show them tolerance.”

Sweden received the most asylum applications per person in
the world from 2009 through 2013, according to the UN High
Commissioner for Refugees. The share of Swedes born abroad was
15.9 percent last year compared with 11.3 percent in 2000.
Immigration rose 12 percent to an all-time high last year.

Party leaderJimmie Aakesson, who has sought to reinvent
the Sweden Democrats to make it more palatable to the broader
electorate, says he wants to cut asylum immigration by 90
percent. A poll done by television broadcaster SVT in May showed
44 percent of Swedes think their country has accepted too many
immigrants, up from 37 percent a year earlier. Only 10 percent
want a more open policy toward foreigners.

Stockholm Riots

Support for the Sweden Democrats has risen to 10.9 percent
from the 5.7 percent the party got in the election four years
ago, according to a poll published Aug. 18 by United Minds and
Aftonbladet. The three-party opposition, led by the Social
, was backed by 46.5 percent, compared with 38.8
percent for Reinfeldt’s four-party government, the poll showed.

In European Parliament elections in May, the Sweden
Democrats won 9.7 percent of the vote, matching a surge across
the region for parties opposed to immigration and skeptical
toward the European Union. The U.K. Independence Party and
French National Front this year became their countries’ biggest
political groups in the European parliament.

Sweden’s growing support for its anti-immigration party
follows a series of riots that shocked the nation. In Stockholm
suburbs characterized by above-average joblessness, Swedes last
year watched youths from immigrant backgrounds torch cars during
street battles with police.

Suffocating Opposition

“It’s good that they address certain issues that the other
parties don’t really dare to do something about like immigration
but I don’t completely support them,” said Martin Welander, 20,
a business student at Oerebro University. “The other parties
have tried to suffocate all criticism of immigration.”

Erik Wallander, a 30-year-old system developer, describes
the policies of the Sweden Democrats as “unpleasant.”

“People who are unemployed and don’t have it so good look
for someone that’s easy to blame,” he said. “It’s pretty
convenient to point to immigrants.”

Swedish unemployment is the highest in Scandinavia, even as
a report today showed joblessness dropped to 7.1 percent last
month from 9.2 percent the previous month. The figures aren’t
adjusted for seasonal swings. A year earlier, the jobless rate
was 7.2 percent. About 16 percent of people born abroad didn’t
have a job last year, compared with 6.3 percent for ethnic
Swedes. Finance Minister Anders Borg said this month
developments in Iraq and Syria mean there’ll be a
“significant” increase in costs that will “hit public

Mass Unemployment

Aakesson said in an interview in May that Sweden’s “mass
unemployment is primarily imported.”

Immigration risks destroying the welfare state by creating
“parallel societies” of people “that don’t think of
themselves as part of Swedish society,” he said.

Aakesson is now trying to replicate the success of other
Nordic parties set on tightening immigration. In Norway, the
Progress Party joined the government for the first time last
year while the Danish People’s Party has been a power-broker for
more than a decade, shaping some of Europe’s toughest
immigration standards.

Even some of Sweden’s immigrants have started to question
the nation’s policies toward outsiders.

Enikoe Blixt, 37, a biomedical analyst in Linkoeping who’s
originally from Hungary, said that while the Sweden Democrats
are “too xenophobic,” the country needs to be better at
absorbing its immigrants.

“There should be more of a requirement to learn the
language and greater demands on these people that come here to
really integrate into society,” Blixt said. The goal is “to
avoid these people from becoming segregated.”

To contact the reporters on this story:
Johan Carlstrom in Stockholm at
Niklas Magnusson in Stockholm at

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Jonas Bergman at
Tasneem Hanfi Brogger at
Tasneem Hanfi Brogger

Source Article from http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-08-20/swedish-nationalists-rise-as-record-immigration-stirs-backlash.html
Swedish Nationalists Rise as Record Immigration Stirs Backlash
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