Protests against migrants have been happening more and more over the past two years
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.
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 building 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.
And a surge in nationalistic language has shown 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.
Sweden Democrats leader Jimmie Åkesson uses overtly anti-immigrant language
The authors said: “Discussions of national identity became much more prominent from 2015 onwards in relation to the refugee crisis.”
Politicians continually spoke about Swedish national culture and heritage which, while not overtly anti-migrant, led to an exclusion of those who were not native.
The leaders of the liberal-conservative Moderate Party and conservative Christian Democrats were more subtle than Sweden Democrats about linking values and culture with the suggestion immigrants “are causing a demise of Swedish values”, however they did make the link, the study found.
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Sweden has traditionally bucked the growing trend of support for populist anti-immigration parties across Europe, with the country welcoming an influx of labour migrants in the Sixties and Seventies.
Since 2000, the number of asylum seekers to the country increased rapidly from an average 16,000 annually to 50,000 in 2015 in a country with a population of just 9.6million – the same size as Chicago.
Politicians from all parties have been recorded making comments questioning the future of national identity or ‘Swedishness’.
Anna Kinberg-Batra, leader of the Moderates, said arranged marriages could not be defended as freedom of religion.
She said: “To take the future away from your daughter – that is not freedom.”
She added that honour killings were “dishonest and it goes against Swedish values”.
Marches against migrants in Stockholm
Leader of the Christian Democrats Ebba Busch Thor has also been using exclusionary language
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.”
Europe in Crisis Sun, February 5, 2017
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