Sweden's changing attitudes to refugees

Sweden's changing attitudes to refugees
Increasing numbers of Swedes want their government to take in fewer migrants according to a recent poll, while the army has stepped in to help deal with the refugee crisis.
3 min read
11 November, 2015
Sweden is struggling to cope with the refugee crisis [AFP]

A growing number of Swedes want their country to take in fewer migrants, a poll showed on 9 November as Sweden struggles to manage an unprecedented influx of asylum seekers.

Between 2 and 8 November, more than 10,000 people sought asylum in Sweden, a new weekly record that brought the number of asylum seekers so far this year to 122,000, with a total of up to 190,000 expected by year's end.

The poll by Sifo, published in the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper, found 41 percent said Sweden should grant fewer residency permits to refugees - compared to just 29 percent in September.

Of the 1,000 people questioned between 2 and 5 November, a quarter wanted the number to remain at current levels, while 17 percent wanted an increase and 16 percent were undecided.

Sweden has taken more refugees per capita than any other country in Europe as the continent struggles with its worst migration crisis since World War II.

     Sweden has taken more refugees per capita than any other country in Europe.

"When we polled opinion in September, the developments and the debate were completely different. Today the prime minister (Stefan Lofven) is asking to redistribute (in the European Union) the refugees who have come here," said Toivo Sjoren, head of polling at Sifo.

An Ipsos poll published on Saturday in Sweden's Dagens Nyheter newspaper similarly indicated a shift in attitudes, suggesting 26 percent think the Scandinavian country should welcome more migrants, down from 44 percent in September. 

Men and right-wing voters tended to take more negative views of migrants, with 96 percent of the far-right Sweden Democrats' supporters saying fewer should be granted residency.

Rising opposition to the newcomers can also be seen on social media.

According to a study conducted by Svenska Dagbladet, 35 percent of the most shared posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram containing the Swedish word for "refugees" expressed a negative opinion about the issue in October, compared to 21 percent in September.

Sweden has also been forced to call in its army to help manage the country's refugee crisis at a management level, rather than on the ground, reported the UK's Guardian yesterday.

The civilian administration is struggling to cope with an unprecedented surge in arrivals. A top official has claimed there is no room left, in the short-term, for migrants reaching Swedish shores.

"We don't have any more space," said Fredrik Bengtsson spokesman for Migrationsverket, Sweden’s refugee and immigration agency.

Reportedly state-owned accommodation has been full since 2012, and it is now difficult to find affordable private housing:

"For the time being, all of these are finished as well, so for the last three or four nights we've had people sleeping in our [non-residential] centres across the country. Right now we're just looking for people to have a roof over their heads," Bengtsson said.