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Refugee-Friendly Sweden Attracts War-Weary Iraqis

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Largely barred from U.S. entry, growing numbers of Iraqi refugees are knocking on the doors of Europe – and particularly refugee-friendly Sweden.

The estimated 20,000 refugees who found haven last year in northerly Sweden are only a handful compared to around 1.8 million who have stampeded into neighboring Syria and Jordan. The difference is that Sweden is attracting both the very wealthy and also highly qualified middle-class professionals.

With some 36,000 additional Iraqis expected to turn up this year at Stockholm Airport, the Swedish government says it now needs to share the burden with other Europeans, who are more restrictive. "There simply must be solidarity between member states in the European Union (EU), and that more and more EU countries can share this responsibility and offer protection for the refugees," wrote two Swedish government ministers in a newspaper article yesterday. Sweden, with a population of only 9 million, also seeks EU financial assistance to deal with Iraqi refugees.

Europe was quick to respond. The European Union said today it will take up the matter immediately with member states at the request of Sweden. "This should be a problem, as well, for other member countries," said Franco Frattini, EU Justice Minister. He was speaking at a press conference following a meeting in Brussels of all the justice, interior, and immigration ministers within the 27-nation European Union.

Germany, as EU powerhouse, has received only 1,918 Iraqi asylum applications in the first six months of last year. Freewheeling Sweden – with a long tradition of political neutrality – offers more favorable preconditions for refugees and exiles.

The U.S. granted asylum to only 202 Iraqis last year, citing security reasons. The Swedish attitude is very different. "We don’t turn anyone back. Look at the circumstances they have left," said an officer at the Swedish Migration Board.

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  • Paul2

    So what ? It’s up to the swedish gov’t to change the laws accordingly and to specify if Iraq is a country that is actually a country were you need to flee from.

    Concerning Germany, that changed it’s laws, it received over 1 million refugees from 1990-2000, a number significantly higher than that of Sweden and the rest of the EU combined and a about twice as high than those that the USA received. So thats hardly an argument.

  • Roger Choate

    Germany, as a far bigger country than Sweden, has indeed accepted many immigrants over the long timeperiod cited by letter writer “Paul2”. In my contribution, I was only discussing Iraqis applying for asylum in Germany for a six month period last year. Asylum is not at all the same creature as normal immigration.

  • Paul2

    The numbers I mentioned refer to Asylum seekers only, not general immigration.

  • methuselah


    How does that square up with reports like this:

    Swedes Reach Muslim Breaking Point

    Friday, November 26, 2004 By Steve Harrigan

    MALMO, Sweden — Swedish authorities in the southern city of Malmo (search) have been busy with a sudden influx of Muslim immigrants — 90 percent of whom are unemployed and many who are angry and taking it out on the country that took them in.

    “If we park our car it will be damaged — so we have to go very often in two vehicles, one just to protect the other vehicle,” said Rolf Landgren, a Malmo police officer.

    Fear of violence has changed the way police, firemen and emergency workers do their jobs.

    There are some neighborhoods Swedish ambulance drivers will not go to without a police escort. Angry crowds have threatened them, telling them which patient to take and which ones to leave behind.

    Because Sweden has some of the most liberal asylum laws in Europe, one quarter of Malmo’s 250,000 population is now Muslim, changing the face and the idea of what it means to be Swedish. Asylum seekers may bring spouses, brothers and grandparents with them. Civil servants say the city is swamped.

  • Roger Choate

    There is no direct relationship between Methuselah’s comment – based on a deliberately sensationalist article from 2004 – and my report dealing with mainly upper and middle-class Iraqi refugees who have arrived in Sweden recently