For the past 20 years it has been Utopia for immigrants, the country in Europe that best epitomised the famous plea, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” inscribed on the base of the Statue of Liberty in New York.
But Sweden was a nation in flames last week as tensions over immigration flared after the death of a 69-year-old man shot by police as he brandished a machete in the immigrant dominated Stockholm suburb of Husby. Sweden’s great multicultural experiment is in jeopardy as Swedes question whether they are paying the price for having one of the most generous welfare systems in Europe.
Asylum-seekers are offered new, furnished homes in an area of their choice and an average family could net as much as £1,700 a month, claims the National Democrat Party.
As many as 15 per cent of Sweden’s residents are foreign-born, the highest proportion of any Nordic country. In suburbs like Husby 80 per cent of the 11,000 inhabitants are first or second generation immigrants.
Many Swedes argue that allowing sprawling ghettos to develop has led to a “Balkanisation” effect, with virtual no-go zones.
Party chairman Marc Abramsson says: “We are facing a situation where plumbers, delivery men and even firefighters are greeted with suspicion and resentment when they enter some of these neighbourhoods.
“Sweden has tried harder than any other country in Europe to make integration work. We have invested virtually billions from taxpayers’ money and we have tried everything that the scientists have presented. If it doesn’t work here, what does that tell you?” Critics warn that many of the problems seen after immigration from developing countries can now be seen with EU economic migrants too, which will heighten British fears about a possible wave of such migrants from Romania and Bulgaria when work restrictions are lifted in time for January.