2015 will be remembered by Swedes as the year that the migrant crisis hit them with full force. The left-wing government has arguably had the toughest first year that a Swedish government has ever had. Although it’s still in power, it has taken a lot of damage.
The last months especially have been a test on the migration system, and also on the policies of Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and his ministers. We can now conclude that their leftist message of solidarity and openness might get you elected, but doesn’t work in practice.
No room for open discussion
It’s hard to believe that only months ago, it was taboo to say anything remotely negative about immigration or multiculturalism. You couldn’t have a reasonable discussion about it without being called names and subjected to ad hominem attacks. When a number of women this summer tried to spread awareness of the situation in Swedish suburbs, where Muslim men are trying to control women’s behavior, they were met not with sympathy but rather accusations of racism.
The irony is that these accusations came from the socialists who also claim to be for the empowerment of women. But when one “oppressed” group (women) criticized another “oppressed” group (Muslims), the leftists took the side of the latter. These are of course the same leftists who said that the terrorists killing the Charlie Hebdo journalists in Paris weren’t “real” Muslims.
The amount of immigrants we let in has not been up for discussion either. Dissent of this kind could only find an outlet on the Internet, where you can commit your thoughtcrimes anonymously. But the discontent has also been picked up by the Sweden Democrats, a socially conservative and nationalistic party which first made it into the parliament in 2010. Since then, the seven other major parties, both left and right, have done everything they can to prove how much they oppose them.
Immigration without limits
The main objective the Sweden Democrats is to limit immigration to a minimum, thereby making Sweden more homogeneous. For this they have often been called racist and xenophobic by politicians and commentators. The Prime Minister himself a year ago called them a “neo-fascist” party. His Minister of Finance followed up by saying that they “don’t stand for basic values about all people having an equal worth.”
To want to limit immigration has been synonymous with hatred for “the other.” The Deputy Prime Minister and her party, the Green Party, said that they “will never make it more difficult for people to come to Sweden.” When asked in an interview how many refugees Sweden could accept, the Prime Minister said that “there is no limit.”
Then the migrant crisis came into full swing. Scores of migrants started flooding the shores of Greece and Italy. At least a million people came to Europe this year, and most of them came on boats over the Mediterranean. Many wanted to go to Germany and Sweden, where they were greeted with open arms.
In the beginning of September, just when the immigration curve started turning sharply upward, 15,000 Swedes gathered at a square in Stockholm to welcome the “refugees.” The Prime Minister made a fiery speech in front of the cheering masses. “Sweden will continue to take responsibility for this,” he said, claiming that it was a matter of human rights. “My Europe welcomes people who flee from war.”
But being “responsible” was easier said than done. Thousands upon thousands of immigrants arrived in a constant flow, and their numbers grew for every week that passed. At one point, ten thousand of them applied for asylum every week (but only about half of the immigrants actually seek asylum, while the other half stays under the radar). It all led to what can be described as a system collapse.
Local governments all over the country reported that the situation was quickly reaching critical levels. Health care and social services were under enormous pressure. Schools couldn’t find enough teachers to match the great number of new immigrant students.
The police were under pressure too. They had to spend a lot of their resources on keeping the immigrants under control and breaking up fights at asylum facilities. Common crimes like theft and assault were given a lower priority.
End to illusions
But perhaps the biggest issue was the shortage of accommodation. Without any room left at the usual facilities, asylum seekers slept in gym halls, churches, warehouses and other places. Putting up tent camps was an option, but organizing everything and getting the right permits took a long time. Some, mostly unaccompanied men, were forced to sleep outside in the cold.
Finally, the government had to cave in to the pressure. Border controls were erected. At a press conference at the end of November, The Prime Minister and his deputy announced new policies to make fewer immigrants come to Sweden. Swedish migration laws were adapted to the “minimum level” of the EU. The Deputy Prime Minister was close to tears as she explained that it was the right thing to do.
In December, the two government parties with support from the Sweden Democrats passed a law stating that everyone traveling into the country had to show a valid ID. This law was also meant to reduce the number of asylum seekers. During the weeks after these decisions, their numbers did drop considerably, to about 3,000 per week.
Honesty will be rewarded
It’s amazing what a few months of crisis can do to politicians. Those beautiful words about responsibility and solidarity didn’t seem to mean much when things got tough. The government said there were no limit to how many immigrants could come. That turned out to be untrue, and in the end, the leftist government passed laws with the approval of the “neo-fascist” Sweden Democrats. The open arms that first greeted the migrants were replaced with laws basically telling them to go someplace else.
The moral of the story is, don’t make promises you can’t keep. But the very reason that these kinds of politicians get elected is that they promise a lot and say nice things, with no connection to reality. In the real world, you constantly have to make hard decisions, but people are stupid enough to vote for those who make things sound easy.
If there’s one thing we can learn from this year, it’s that honesty and realism ultimately pays off. Polls show that the Sweden Democrats’ support has increased dramatically over the year. The party got 19.9 percent in one poll, 7 percentage points more than it got in last year’s election. The two government parties, the Social Democrats and the Green Party, dropped 3.4 and 1 percentage points respectively. 58 percent of Swedes have little confidence in the current administration.
Today, the Sweden Democrats are the third biggest party. But at this rate, when it’s time to sum up 2016, they will easily have become the biggest of them all.