Anti-immigration election gains divide Sweden and worry rights groups

STOCKHOLM: The rise to power of Sweden’s populist, anti-immigration Democrats after Sunday’s election has left civil rights groups and many immigrants worried about what the future may hold in a country long known for its tolerance and its openness.

Social Democrat Prime Minister Magdalena resigned on Thursday, September 15, meaning Moderate Party leader Ulf Kristersson must now try to form a new government. He cannot do this without the support of the Swedish Democrats, who have become the second party with 20.5% of the vote.

The gains for Sweden’s Democrats stem from what many voters saw as a failure of immigration and integration policies.

The party, which declined Reuters requests for comment for the story, tapped into anger over crime and gang shootings, mostly by blaming immigrants for the violence.

He set out a 30-point program to achieve the lowest immigration in Europe, including legislation that would deny asylum to anyone claiming to be fleeing persecution for being gay or for changing their religion.

“Welcome to the repatriation train. You have a one-way ticket. Next stop, Kabul!” read a tweet from Swedish Democrats Law and Order Spokesman Tobias Andersson a few weeks before the 9/11 election.

It’s the kind of rhetoric that has worried and frustrated many of the country’s estimated 2 million foreign-born residents.

“If they think I’m going to go back, they must be dreaming,” said Geza, a 54-year-old restaurant worker who arrived in Sweden from Somalia 30 years ago.

“I live here, I work here, I pay taxes here. I have a Swedish passport. I’m Swedish.”

The Swedish Democrats have several proposals to send people back to their country of origin. Those who have not “adjusted well into society should be encouraged to return”, the party said in a manifesto.

“We want to get started right away to achieve a sustainable migration policy. We would have liked our ideas to have been heard 10-20 years ago, so we wouldn’t have the problems we have today,” he said. said Henrik Vinge, the party’s first deputy leader, said on election night.


Outside the largest mosque in central Stockholm, a few hundred meters from where Swedish Democrat leader Jimmie Akesson held a rally a month ago and promised to cut immigration, a group young muslim men stood around and talked.

“It was not easy to be a Muslim here before and I’m afraid it will become more difficult now,” said Muhammed, a 24-year-old student.

He said he found most Swedes welcoming and it was hard to fathom that one in five voted for the Swedish Democrats.

Akesson described Islam as the greatest foreign threat to Sweden since World War II. The party wants to ban Muslim schools.

A white paper commissioned by the Swedish Democrats themselves showed that 18 of the party’s 22 founding members in 1988 came from the white supremacist group Keep Sweden Swedish. A dozen of them had links with fascist or Nazi organizations, he said.

Civil Rights Defenders, a Stockholm-based international human rights watchdog and advocacy group, said it had considered proposals from all parties on law and order, democracy and immigration and had found those of the Swedish Democrats disturbing.

“In all of these areas, we see proposals that restrict human rights, weaken the rule of law and undermine democracy,” said John Stauffer, Legal Director and Deputy Executive Director of the Defender of Civil Rights.

Stauffer said the examples included proposals to revoke citizenship, increase surveillance without probable cause, tougher penalties and make more actions illegal.

“This is exactly what we have seen happening around the world. Parties come to power democratically in democratic elections, but slowly but surely, from right to right, they begin to weaken democracy,” he said. he declares.

Reuters informed Sweden Democrats of the civil rights critics by email and phone, but the party declined to comment.