So, what’s happening in Sweden? This is ’Sweden’ calling.
It is true that Sweden, on a per capita basis, or in relation to the total population, opened its doors to more immigrants than any other European nation about a year-and-a-half ago when the refugee situation was acute. It is still acute. Sweden has pretty much closed its borders. Now we sit here feeling self-righteous and outrage about the US and its wall against Mexico, but fact is, they are just following in the footsteps of Europe. Remember, the barbed wire? Hungary?
I spent some time, it was short, volunteering in a refugee camp in northern Greece at the start of the year. Two things have stayed with me. Gratitude over the privilege that is mine, I could leave that place, would leave that place. It is not everyone’s to have, it is a gift. That privilege was given to me, I am a Swede, what do I do with it? The second thing is harder to put in words without sounding too zappy but I can fall back in to this, sense it, of seeing these families, in flight, having lived through things that me and my boys, my family, cannot even dream of in terms of hardship, hopelessness, now stuck. No one wants them. No one welcomes them.
It makes me proud to be part of, a native of, the nation that took in most refugees during a crisis. Of course, but that goes without saying, that also poses challenges to the system. Instead of addressing those challenges, I am sad to say, Sweden took a different route, pitching immigrants against the dream of the cradle-to-grave welfare system. Conclusion drawn: We can’t afford it. That is the really sad thing that is happening in Sweden. A lot of people that would never dream of considering themselves racist find it legitimate to say: We can’t afford them.
I see it happening all around me. People I love, friends, taking that route. Reducing refugees to an economic transaction. ‘We can’t afford them, look at the Swedish healthcare system, it is in chaos.” They sound like Trump to me.
I don’t buy it. I will never buy it.
Call me naive, a lot of people do, but I won’t budge on this. The refugee situation goes deeper than economics, it is about who we are, what we are, what it is to be a human being, reducing refugees to economics, like Sweden is doing, only serves to remove us one more step from being humane. The refugee crisis is not about money, we can afford it, it is about being human, what it is to be human, how do we share our resources. We have a choice here. It boils down to this: How do we define ourselves? As Economic beings or Human beings?
I am worried too about what is happening in Sweden, for radically different reasons than Trump, but still. As i write this, I think of Sarah Griffith and Sam James and the incredibly amazing work they do with Bridge2Refugees. More here. I am not there, not ready to take the steps they have taken but amazing, isn’t it, how Trump in some kind of paradoxical manner is bringing me closer.