News ID: 129451
Published: 0220 GMT October 21, 2015

Refugee consensus crumbling in Sweden

Refugee consensus crumbling in Sweden

Even Sweden has its limits. A self-proclaimed 'humanitarian superpower' where welcoming those fleeing war and oppression is ingrained as part of the national identity, the Nordic country has proudly taken in more refugees per capita than any other in Europe.


But now, with military barracks, ski lodges and camping huts already filling up, it is running of roofs to put over the heads of immigrants. The government is warning that tens of thousands of people may end up spending the Nordic winter in tents, Reuters reported.

And for the first time, there have been signs in recent weeks that the national consensus behind the open-door policy is crumbling. Far-right protesters have shouted 'go home' at asylum seekers. Refugee housing has been hit by arson attacks. And even in the political mainstream there is a growing feeling that its generous policies are unsustainable.

With fewer than 10 million people, Sweden has already received 100,000 refugees so far this year, and the government now predicts 150,000 could arrive by year's end. That is more than double the number it expected when it set aside as much as four percent of the 2016 state budget for immigration and integration.

Authorities will soon set up electrically heated tents that could house up to 35,000 people this winter, bringing to the cold dark reaches of northern Europe the sort of refugee camps more familiar in the poorest parts of the world.

"We are living from hand to mouth, and we have for a long time now," Tolle Furegard, national housing coordinator at the Migration Agency, said.

Early in the Syrian crisis, Sweden stepped out in front of other European countries to declare that all refugees from Syria would automatically be granted permanent residency, letting them work and making it easier for family members to join them.

Polls show most Swedes still welcome refugees, and several charities have received record donations. But a growing minority worry the influx will hurt their cherished welfare state.


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