Migrants, mainly from Syria, prepare to board a train
headed for Sweden, at Padborg station in southern Denmark
Government’s welcoming refugee policy runs into anti-foreigner sentiment in rural areas
When Johnny Palm heard that developers wanted to turn a former hotel into a shelter for asylum-seekers, many likely Muslims from the Middle East, he immediately added his name to a protest list.
A police officer directing migrants at the train station
in Stockholm last month. Photo: jonas ekstromer/EPA
“The village can’t handle it,” the 42-year-old plumber said, crossing his tattooed arms. “Why don’t they go to Saudi Arabia instead where they share the same religion and speak the same language?”
Sweden has granted asylum to nearly 50,000 people since the start of the year, taking in more refugees per capita than any other European country. Even as the European Union argues over how to handle the biggest influx since World War II, Social Democrat Prime Minister Stefan Lofven has vowed to keep Sweden’s doors open. “My Europe doesn’t build walls,” he said at a recent rally in Stockholm.
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But Mr. Lofven’s welcoming stance is increasingly being challenged as the river of people from Syria, Iraq and beyond reshapes the political landscape in Sweden and across the Nordic region.
The anti-immigration Sweden Democrats—long a fringe movement with neo-Nazi roots—has become the country’s third-largest political force. Recent surveys show about 20% of Swedes now support the party, up from 13% in last year’s general election and less than 6% in 2010.
Lars Wilhelm Larsson, left, and Gert Ask of the anti-
immigrant Sweden Democrats in front of the Hotel
Svea in Vollsjo. WSJ
In Norway and Finland, populist parties have joined ruling coalitions. In Denmark, Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen governs with support from the anti-immigration People’s Party, which agreed to back him only after he promised to tighten borders.
In Sweden, anti-immigrant sentiment is heard loudly in small towns and rural areas, where many of the homes for new arrivals awaiting a decision on their asylum application are set up. This summer, several shelters were targeted in arson attacks, including with Molotov cocktails. No arrests have been made.Read the rest of the story HERE.
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