The refugee crisis in Sweden has gotten so bad that the country is calling on its army to help manage the situation. Officials are having an extremely difficult time dealing with the large number of refugees from the Middle East that are fleeing their homes as a result of war. Now officials are panicking, saying that there is simply no more room.
Earlier this week, Swedish military officers were given the task of assisting in the process of coordinating logistics at the country’s refugee and immigration agency. The military won’t be on the ground preventing refugees, but rather they are helping to manage the situation.
Swedish immigration officials have been working with the country’s civil contingencies agency, which is usually involved in helping the country deal with the aftermath of natural disasters and humanitarian catastrophes. The migration agency in Sweden is having a very hard time finding places to house refugees. As a result, many refugees have been forced to sleep on floors.
Agency spokesperson Fredrik Bengtsson said, “We don’t have any more space. For the time being, all of these are finished as well, so for the last three or four nights we’ve had people sleeping in our (non-residential) centers across the country. Right now we’re just looking for people to have a roof over their heads.”
Sweden, along with Germany, is receiving an overwhelming number of Syrian refugees. About one in seven refugees from Syria have ended up in Sweden, despite the fact that the citizens of the country only represent one out of every 50 people in the European Union. This year alone, more than 120,000 people have come to Sweden seeking asylum. By the end of the year, immigration officials believe that more than 170,000 people will have arrived in the country.
Sweden promised in 2013 to provide permanent residency to any Syrian who managed to reach Swedish land. This promise has made Sweden an extremely desirable landing spot. So far, about 800,000 immigrants have arrived in Europe this year by sea.
The head of one reception center in Stockholm, Sweden Olof Gridemark said, “I’ve never seen this many people, ever. We don’t seem to have any more beds in Sweden. We don’t have anywhere to send them.”
Now the government is considering converting space in sports halls and other public buildings in order to accommodate new arrivals. However, the short term has seen many people without proper arrangements. Keeping people in line with health and safety regulations has proven to be a significant challenge.
Some people are fed up with the situation, and they have started committing arson on designated refugee areas. Some refugees have taken the matter into their own hands by establishing a series of tent cities in the southern part of the country.
There are also issues in the long term. The refugees will have to learn the Swedish language. Schools and healthcare facilities will have to manage the refugees. By offering an open door policy, Sweden might have bitten off more than it could chew.
Meanwhile, migration agencies are quickly expanding in order to meet the demand. At another reception center in Stockholm, the number of staff members rose from 30 to 130 in just a period of two years. Even still, many asylum seekers have been told to come back another day due to the sheer number of applicants. Many staff members have been required to work until late at night, and some have had to work on weekends. Some refugees have even given up.
One 29 year old refugee with a family in Iraq named Hassanein said, “In Sweden the process is so slow, so I’m going back to Iraq. My family is waiting for me there, and it isn’t safe for them to wait there for so long without me. But I’m just going back to gather my family, and bring them to Sweden again, so we can all wait here together.”
Some people have criticized the Swedish government for failing to deliver on its 2013 promise, but it’s really hard to blame them, as the task is basically insurmountable. The rush of immigrants coming through Turkey and Greece has surprised all of Europe. They simply cannot keep up.
And it’s no surprise that many people in Sweden are starting to fight back, saying that the refugee influx is ruining their country. If Sweden continues to openly allow refugees, its longtime citizens might soon begin to suffer. Many people have called for increased border controls, saying that the country is “quickly falling apart”.
However, others argue that the core principles of Sweden’s social democracy demand that the refugees be accepted. Still, there’s no denying that the situation is extremely troubling.
Secretary General of the Swedish bar association Anne Ramberg said, “Our society is built on the principle that people are entitled to the same as everyone else. But we are in a situation where we can’t even give refugees housing.”
Ramberg went on to say that Sweden and Germany are taking on too much, and the rest of the European Union needs to help out as well. Either way, it’s clear that something needs to be done about the situation in Sweden. Things are very quickly spiraling out of control.