Fears of Swedes losing their culture and identity has fuelled a rise in anti-migrant sentiment, after 163,000 people arrived in the country in last year.
Via: Alix Culbertson
Sweden has been the poster child for openness and toleration for decades but that has changed in just two years, the study by independent British think-tank Demos found.
In September 2015, thousands of people took to the streets with banners saying “Refugees Welcome” while Prime Minister Stefan Löfven spoke about not buildin
g walls and offering help “when need is great”.
A year later, in October 2016, his government decided to implement border controls, which had always been available but not used, to stem the rapid flow of asylum seekers.
The report said: “This U-turn in refugee policy and rhetoric on refugee admission was accompanied by an increased focus on questions of national identity and civic integration. ‘Swedish values’ became one of the key terms in the immigration debate, in a country where nationalism used to be a political taboo.”
And a surge in nationalistic language has shown many Swedes now consider migrants a threat to the nation, the report said.
The 458-page study into populism in Europe found an increasing use of “exclusionary nationalist rhetoric” in 2015 and 2016 by Swedish politicians across the spectrum.
Since the beginning of 2015, the study found an increasing use of the term “Swedish values” by not just the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats which have gained popularity since then, but by all main parties.
Swedish media mentioned the term more than 1,600 times in 2016, an increase from 286 times in 2012, the study found.
Ebba Busch Thor, leader of the Christian Democrats, suggested the migration crisis was not over and said if immigrants could not speak the language and understand Swedish culture and values “exclusion will grow”.
There was uproar when a Muslim politician refused to shake a female journalist’s hand in April last year, and widespread anger after several swimming pools offered female-only hours following requests from Muslim women.
Swedish National Day, originally a “non-celebration”, has now become a popular public festival after being made a public holiday in 2015.
The study stated: “Our analysis has shown ethnic conceptions of Swedishness go hand in hand with anti-immigrant sentiment.”
It added: “In short, Swedish immigration politics has changed substantially and rhetorically in the past few years, with asylum policies taking a restrictive turn following a large influx of asylum seekers, support for the Sweden Democrats rocketing and immigration taking an uncharacteristically but seemingly unmovable central position on the political agenda.”
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