20 Nov 2013

Dreaming of Europe, Sweden and the jihad

If you are stuck in a warzone like Syria and have the means, luck and courage to get out, then Sweden is not only the polar opposite to the country you’re running from, it is also the country most likely to welcome you.

The place is safe and friendly. The healthcare is world class. The education is renowned.

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Apart from some long winter nights and knotty Swedish grammar, you really couldn’t imagine a nicer home on paper.

What’s more, since the 1970s Sweden has had perhaps the most open asylum policy of any country in the world.

By law, if a conflict persists beyond a certain length, asylum seekers from that war are granted automatic and permanent residency rights.

The gaggle of children we came across in the playground of a housing estate on the outskirts of Stockholm was a snapshot of every conflict of the last two decades.

Read more: Dreaming of Europe, Africa’s migrants risk disease, rape and death

There were children from Iraq, Somalia, Chechnya, Bosnia and, of course, Syria, all conversing with each other in fluent Swedish.

This much I expected. What I didn’t expect was the degree of fear and loathing from the Syrian civil war that has travelled with the asylum seekers to their new refuge.


In the immigration office one of our contacts, Osama – an Assyrian Christian journalist who blogs against the Assad regime – almost came to blows with some pro-Assad Christians who had recognised him from the Internet.

‘Hissed like snakes’

They hissed at each other like snakes. The whole waiting room, crammed with Syrian refugees, was transfixed, waiting for a fight.

“I will kill you when you get out of here,” the large man with a thuggish face and a shaved head said to our contact.

Osama called the police but they never came. He is afraid to live in his housing estate surrounded by Syrians who hate him.

He has applied to move to the north of Sweden, where the nights are even longer and colder but where no-one, he hopes, will know who he is.

A family of seven I interviewed in the asylum centre was afraid to give me their name or show their faces because they were convinced the Syrian muhabarat, or secret service, would be watching their interview and would come after them.

I tried to reason with the father by telling him that the muhabarat had other things on their minds these days, like surviving a civil war. But he wasn’t convinced.

Read more: No turning back for Bulgaria’s 5,000 Syrian refugees

Over time, fear is worn like a second skin. The family, originally from Hama, had spent six days and $10,000 on a rickety fishing boat from Alexandria, in Egypt, to Sicily.

The sea was choppy. The boat, which jammed packed with 130 migrants, was disintegrating, and 100 miles or so off Sicily the engine failed.

“I was convinced we were all going to die,” the father told me. “I asked my children for forgiveness.” The oldest one was 10, the youngest four.

They were saved by the Italian coastguard, then escaped from a detention camp in Sicily and made their way by train to Sweden.

They travelled in the Schengen zone and their passports were never checked once. This perilous migration, fraught with danger, is driven by fear and desperation. It happens a thousand times a week. The family from Hama will be made to feel welcomed in Sweden.

Swedish will sound strange to their ears but they will learn it faster than they expect. They will have Swedish passports. They will probably eat meatballs and boiled fish.

They will be Swedish on paper but when they get older they, like tens of thousands of other refugees, may suddenly realise that their new home has only caressed them, not embraced them.

And then they could feel as if they belong nowhere. These are the newly minted Swedes who are recruited to fight the jihad in Syria or Somalia.

They seek a new third home, and radical Islam offers them one. To be clear, we are talking about a very small minority here.

But they are beginning to worry the Swedish authorities, who are slowly waking up to the fact that their country’s asylum policy is far more progressive than society itself.

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14 reader comments

  1. Gavin Sheedy says:

    It’s not as friendly here as it used to be, unfortunately, as demonstrated by the rise of Sverigedemokraterna, a party whose main goal is to end the open house policy.

  2. Jimtaylor says:

    All is not ,as well, as, portrayed in your comments the Swedes are waking toothe night mare brought about by their lax policys not Long before change

  3. Andy says:

    Matt watching your piece on Sweden and yes it sounds good but did it not occur to you that people can and will use Sweden as a backdoor to get into any other EC country So Sweden may have a big heart but its countries like us will have to deal with the culture clashes and may end up footing the bill

  4. Olof says:

    The author is in dire need of an update on Sweden. Sweden is not that safe any more, crimerate in Malmö for instance is higher than Detroit. Swedish healthcare is not all that impressive, the sickbeds per capita is declining to developing country levels. And the education? Students here are below par in europe in all current studies.

    Why? Well, much of the answer can be found in this article… I doubt any country throughout history has been as self-destructive as Sweden is today. So forget the Sweden of the past, and get to know the new multicultural cesspool… I mean society, that the politicians, in their relentless crusade to show the world that they are the nicest and most enlightened people on the planet, has created.

    1. Erik Larsson says:

      Why are you lying? Swedens criminality is going down, there have never been so few murders and violent crimes. The number of people in prison has also decreased with 1000 people in 10 years, now only 4500 is in prison and we are closing down 4 prisons.

      1. Johan H says:

        @Erik Larsson

        Why are YOU lying, or do you believe in what you´re saying? Please provide some sources supporting your claims. Let me guess, it’s DN?

        It´s true that less victims die because of their wounds today, because emergency care has gotten better, that doesn’t mean there´s less violence. It’s also true that prisons are closing down and more people get sentenced to wear electronic ankle collar (freely translated from fotboja) instead if going to prison.

        But saying that crime is down in Sweden is like saying immigration is a profit to swedish society, it’s just a lie and a bad one at that.

        The statistics från DN mentions Södersjukhuset and victims of serious violence dropped from 2007, it’s just too bad it was because they started driving them to KI Solna instead, and not because of an actual drop in violence.

        DN a few months earlier – Dramatic increase in deadly violence:


        Here’s statistics från BRÅ:


        Or try this one:


        In 2002 they treated 10 people for life threatening knife wounds at Sahlgrenska hospital in Gothenburg, in 2010 they treated 68 people for the same thing. They say that in 7 years the number of seriuously beaten people has trippled and that in 2000 knife wounds were a rariry, but now happens all the time.

        Or try the news in general, see how they suit your theory of a more peaceful society. Or try calling the many hospitals who now have to hire guards at the emergency intake because of the increase in violence:


        In Malmoe they get 1-2 knife or gunshot wounded patients per week now, 10-15 years ago that was very rare to happen at all. Now thet hire guards at the emergency intake and install security doors. I’m sure it’s because of the drop in serious crime…

        Same at Sahlgrenska, guards, locked doors and security cameras because of the increase in violence:


        And the same in Södertälje, Norrtälje and Södersjukhuset:


  5. Chris. says:

    What on earth has given the author the impression that swedes are found of boiled fish???
    This said, I totally agree with Olof as I live in Malmö – a city which is completely changed since
    the immigration authorities here, pulled out all stops in order to show the world how nice we all are in this little heaven on earth, called Sweden.

  6. Gavin Sheedy says:

    Steady on folks, I’ve lived in Sweden for the last eleven years, and it’s extremely civilized. It has problems, like everywhere else, but there’s still nowhere I’d rather live. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of multiculturalism. It doesn’t seem to have done Britain or America any harm.

  7. Johan H says:

    Sweden is one of the most generous, if not THE most generous, country when it comes to asylum and immigration in general. It’s also one of the most generous countries when it comes to public welfare, and thus swedes are among the most heavily taxed. It’s not a great combination for the swedes, who are getting less and less for the money they pay.

    At the same time Sweden has the greatest gap in employment between immigrants and natives in OECD, which means swedes are paying a heavy price. Both tax wise and in social problems like crime and civil unrest that follows immigration of this kind, from these regions, these cultures and with the high unemployment.

    And journalists and politicians still acts surprised that more and more swedes thinks that enough is enough. It’s sad really. I don’t see Sweden ever getting back up on it’s feet again, we’ve gone too far down this road towards multiculturalism already, without caring which cultures, what they represent or who’s representing them. Much less the price, be it monetary or social consequences. Diversity for the sake of diversity alone has become a goal in itself.

    There’s no happy ending to this, just more or less violence, poverty, segregation and civil unrest.

  8. Cavatus says:

    Mayday, mayday! We, the Swedes, have never and are not asked what we think here. We are being overrun by the media and the politicians in these issues and anyone who dares to question the open door policy, is immediately accused of being racist.

    So once again: mayday, mayday. We are drowned in people from all the corners of the world and we have to pay for their living, studies, welfare allowances, constructed employments financed by taxes.

    The Swedes have become the country’s slaves: “work har, pay tax and shut up. Don’t destroy our construction of the multicultural vision.” But the establishment don’t live in those areas where all the very often hostile immigrants live, so they can afford to be big-hearted. Bl-dy hypocrites!

  9. Robbie says:

    Typical lefto-fascist propaganda. Sweden is the most amazing country I agree, they excel at everything that is good and try to fix everything that is bad. However, they have ruined their country and culture with letting in the third world hordes. In 50 years Swedes will be out bred by Muslims who will seek to bring inSharia and Islam as they do everywhere else. Naturally the economic prosperity will dissolve and then when sweden cannot afford their New Swedes, who are anti swedish, it will descend into a mess much like most of the Muslim world. Only the resource rich Muslim countries do people not live in primitive surrounds, only their minds do. Wake up Sweden, you are losing your country.

  10. morten olesen says:

    Sweden is rapidly becoming a Middle Eastern country. It will not remain a welfare state for long if this trend is not reversed soon. Sweden is facing the same future as England, I guess.

  11. Francis Flynn says:

    I lived in Sweden on and off for over 20 years, the social changes are enormous. What the report failed to point out is that Sweden fails miserably on integration. Places like Malmo has over 70% unemployment among immigrants. Its one thing to help asylum seekers its another thing to give them a meaningful life. Sweden just warehouses its immigrants and hope they will immigrate which many do once get a Swedish passport. Also Sweden is not the welfare state it used to be A Kassa has not risen in 10 years and Social is 3000kr a month for a single person hardly generous welfare by any standards plus now the unemployed have to attend a workhouses during the day to get welfare under a program called Fas 3 (this happens after 450 days of unemployment). People sit there all day doing nothing and the person that has the workhouse gets 5000kr a month per person. Its very lucrative for some private companies. The back drop to all this is that society is very raw and split with no interaction between swedes or immigrants. Anyone that says otherwise is lying or is not very familiar with Sweden. I expect much more riots in Sweden and I expect it in the not to distant future that sweden will become a major crisis land in EU both socially and economically. The time scale is hard to say but conditions are changing rapidly within 5 years Sweden will be major concern for the EU a major crisis land sorry to say.

  12. Susan Galea says:

    Blimey, there’s a massive disconnect between Matt Frei’s report and the views expressed here from Swedes. And, yet even here the Swedes are in disagreement. What seems clear is that the level of social cohesion has depreciated, and if steps are not taken to ensure some kind of outreach and workable connection between the immigrants/asylum seekers and the local population and possible provision for them all then there’s going to be breakdown of pacific and healthy relations. It would look to be the usual problem of numbers versus resources and this can only be addressed with some kind of measured immigration policy if the straitened times indicate that the necessary funds will not be found.

    I feel enormous sympathy for the asylum seekers and wonder how the disruption around the world from war and poverty can be best tackled. It can’t just be massive shifts of population for the latter, but must involve a more comprehensive approach to making their respective countries more productive and trying to stem the drain of talent from them until a hopeless imbalance becomes even more stark between the haves and have-nots – with this being replicated in the recipient countries.

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