Stockholm riots raise questions about immigration policy

Worries over immigration have also changed the political mood. The third-largest party in the country is now the Swedish Democrats, an anti-immigrant party with its roots in the neo-Nazi movement. Perhaps as a result, the ruling centre-right coalition has toughened up its language. Tobias Billström, minister for migration, said in February: “Sweden is one of the countries that receives the most immigrants in the EU. That’s not sustainable?.?.?.?Today, people are coming to households where the only income is support from the municipality. Is that reasonable?”

The sight of burning cars in a dozen suburbs of Stockholm on Tuesday night has shocked Sweden and shaken its image of tolerance and equality. But the rioting is also raising a simple, devastating question: Is Sweden facing its own Paris or London moment when it is forced to confront long-simmering questions about the integration of immigrants?

“This is a wake-up call for decision makers and Swedish society as a whole,” says Awad Hersi, a Stockholm city councillor from near where the riots started. But Hersi, of Somali origin, argues that the situation is not yet as serious as it was in London in 2011 or Paris in 2005. “There are differences with Stockholm: the scale, the methods are different. Stockholm still has a chance but it is a matter of time.”

Police on Wednesday were drafting in reinforcements to prepare for a potential fourth night of unrest. What started in the northwestern suburb of Husby had by Tuesday night spread to about a dozen different suburbs north and south of Stockholm. The rioters were reported to be mostly young immigrants of African and Middle Eastern origin.


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