So, what’s happening in Sweden?

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.


  1. Jag tycker det här är svårt. Jag håller med Dig i varenda ord, men samtidigt gnager än oroskänsla: hur ska jag bemöta mina kristna syskon som är eller har blivit ”invandringsrestriktiva” utan att ta till besserwisserfasoner? Hur håller man en dialog levande mellan de olika lägren i invandringsfrågan i stället för att bara låta bekräfta sig i sin egen komfortzon? Jag vet inte, känner mig rådvill.

  2. A brave reflection presented from an inside perspective. Even braver to comment using some parts of the same language?!
    Welcoming needy people without reservations is, I believe, a new experience for Scandinavia. We were not prepared. No one had prepared us but for the dream.
    We are not unfamiliar with hard times, but many of us left, to America. My neighbours still speak about those who left. Moberg told us about them.
    Now we try to save the dream of the secure country in the north. Put it in another way, securing the dream for the rest of the world, is that what Trump is trying to do – for the rest of the world? Behind walls?
    New teachers, having been in America for a year, instead taught us that we could also manage anything, like the americans.
    We can do better than this, I believe, but we have to do it the slow way, raising a new generation that is capable not only to claim dreams but to work hard, for a lower salary. That became the result of welcoming all the world. I dare to ask if that was the idea of the Prime Minister, like in Britain.


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