/The situation for immigrants in Sweden – Eija Kuyumcu

The situation for immigrants in Sweden – Eija Kuyumcu

Political approaches towards Turkish and other Immigrants in the European countries and prescience about the future tendencies

The situation for immigrants in Sweden

In the course of history, major waves of immigration have taken place to Sweden, thereby contributing to beneficial developments of the country. In this paper, the focus is however on the recent immigration, starting from the 1950’s. The various immigration waves are connected to the worldwide economic and political situation of its time, which are given examples of in the following. Through the 1950’s and 1960’s the Swedish industry was heavily expanding, but struggling with the lack of manpower. This matter was solved by labor migration from other European countries (e.g. Finland, former Yugoslavia, Greece, Italy, Spain and Turkey), providing a major contribution to the Swedish economy and the development of the welfare state. The 1970’s can be described as a decennium of family reunion, but also of refugees, arriving mainly from war or conflict zones, e.g. due to the military coup in Chile 1973. The 1980’s are described as the decennium of asylum seekers, since their amount increased significantly from countries like Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey and Eritrea. Towards the end of the decennium, asylum seekers from Somalia and from former East European states were added to this group.   The collapse of the former Yugoslavian state leading to war, terror and ethnic cleansing, forced also huge amounts of people to flee to other countries, among them more than 100 000 to Sweden.

   The analysis of these migration waves shows that during the period of 1980-2008 relatively high numbers of asylum seekers (33,3 %) and cases of family reunion (51 %) differs Sweden from other European countries regarding the migration characteristics. The number of migrants to Sweden 2014-2016 was exceptional with respectively 126 966, 134 240 and 163 005 asylum seekers mainly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan (SCB, 2017).  Also 35 369 minors, mostly boys, under the age of 18, arrived to Sweden without their parents or any other legal custodial parent. According to the statistics from 2015, the number of inhabitants born abroad in the Swedish population is calculated to 1,6 million persons, which  is equivalent to a bit over 16 % of the total Swedish population of approximately 10 million inhabitants.

Approaches to facilitate the integration

Depending on the situation, the newcomers are entitled to economic and material support and free language education until they can earn their own living. The language courses are designed to the corresponding levels of the newcomers’ background and completed with labor market courses for various professions in order to facilitate the entrance to the labor market. At the beginning, most of the immigrants are though dependent on the social welfare.

   When it comes to migrant children, they are also entitled to participate in mother tongue lessons in their ordinary school, approximately an hour a week, under a condition that there is a teacher available and a group of at least five voluntary students. However, learning Swedish is held extremely important, although multilingualism is also celebrated, especially as a benefit for the future labor market, concerning specifically the area of global trade. Personally it might also have great value as a link to the family history and as an individual identity kit.

Anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim tendencies, gang violence and IS

Like in many other countries in the world, the positive attitudes towards the immigrants and refugees are eroding also in Sweden. This is due to the political movements of which the first one, “New Democracy” was established 1991. It was a new liberal, conservative and rightwing populist party with representation in the Swedish Parliament 1991-94. Two other similar organizations can be mentioned in this context. The first one is the rightwing populist party of “Sweden democrats”, at the moment the third largest party in Sweden, gaining votes especially with its hate propaganda against immigrants and the established society. The second one is “the Nordic Resistance Movement” with its roots in Nazi and white supremacy ideology, a violent organization, demonstrating on streets with Nazi symbols and spreading fear.

   Within the immigrant population, there are also enclaves of mainly young people who are devoted to violence and extremism. One of them is the criminal gangs, consisting of members of young males, mainly with immigrant background.  These gangs are divided into different fractions, fighting with each others about the control of the drug trade, resulting in shootings and killings, especially in the larger cities. Another enclave of extremism, mainly among the young immigrant population, is the Islamist State, with its violent ideology. Around 300 mainly young people have joined the IS in Syria and Iraq from Sweden. After the defeat of IS the open question is what happens with the ones wishing to return back to Sweden.

Geleceğe İlişkin Öngörüler/Prospects for the future

As seen from the examples above, the Swedish society seems no longer to prevail as cohesive as it used to be in the past. Three reasons for that can be mentioned here.

   For the first, a school reform was undertaken in 1990 which gave the right to private actors and companies to run a large number of the municipality schools. The school administrations used their privilege to choose who they accepted as students. This management led to an increased social segregation and a division of the students to “winners” and “losers”, according to the school they managed to enter. Students with unsuccessful school results were less desirable and ended up to be placed in schools with other unsuccessful students with similar social background, resulting in lower outcomes. Unsuccessful students lose also easily their faith to a better future, which makes them also more vulnerable to be recruited to the criminal gangs or to the extremist Islamist organizations. A new and more inclusive school reform is therefore needed.

   For the second, the far right and populist ideas, with their white supremacy and racist discourses, their argumentations against immigrants and refugees, combined with their mania for nationalism, is dividing the society and normalizing the hate rhetoric. It is important that the politicians manage to keep the cohesion within the population and counteract spreading of extreme rightwing, populist and migrant hostile rhetoric.

   For the third, the discrimination of immigrants on the labor market, verified by their lower employment rates compared with the native population, needs to be adjusted to a level of 70 -75 %  in order to give a net contribution to the public finances. In that case, the positive economic effects of the immigration and its importance to the welfare of the Swedish society would be highly estimated and also contribute to a positive view about immigration. This demands though a more efficient labor market policy in order to change the current situation to a more successful one.

References: SCB 2017, Statistiska Centralbyrån, Sweden/ İstatistik İsveç