Move over, Germany. There’s a new immigration leader in Europe. A new northern border to be breached, as it were: Sweden. The land stereotyped as a bastion of wintery blond wealth has welcomed more asylum seekers than any other EU nation in 2013. And it’s pretty much because of Syria.
Two hundred thousand three hundred ninety six asylum seekers found a new home in Sweden last year. Almost half were from Syria. In September, Sweden became the only nation to grant residence to Syrians fleeing their country’s civil war.
That’s a big jump for a nation with only 9.5 million people. Germany, which by contrast is 9 times Sweden’s size, took in almost as many asylum seekers (the stats differ by less than 400 people) — that’s in a nation with just over 81 million residents.
The big question for the Nordic colossus will be how the Scandinavians adjust to an influx of so many new residents from such far-flung cultures, now and in future years. Already unease has arisen, in the form of right-wing pols with anti-immigration platforms, not to mention riots last year. And then there were the neo-Nazis.
Are those a harbinger of problems to come, especially as the war in Syria — and the number of refugees it has generated — shows little signs of abating?
It’s not just some of the local-born natives getting frustrated. There are reports of rising pockets of Muslim extremism throughout Sweden, according to the New York-based international think tank, the Gatestone Institute.
But in a funny flipping of the script, Swedes seem to have taken a philosophical step back to look at the dilemma from a different vantage point. A new study found that Swedes worry more about rising racism than about the immigration itself. A lot more. Apparently, it’s not so much that they’re concerned about the new influx, but that they fear their countrymen’s response — and what that could do to their society.
Why you should care
Because maybe there’s a lesson here in how societies should think about welcoming an influx of immigrants.