The new Swedish immigration law is clear: stop the automatic family attainment system. If a family is granted asylum, its children must be integrated as soon as possible. Those who fail to do so go from the frying pan into the fire: the children are handed over to the state, the parents are deported. A practice that was not explicitly written into the law, but which corresponds to its implementation by the social services and the bureaucracy. These social services have been privatised and earn money on each child entrusted. Parents, on the other hand, until they have learned the language, are just costs. So let them go.

It seems impossible, and yet it happens only a few kilometres from us, in highly civilised Scandinavia, with the inexplicable tolerance of the European Commission – and with a national press that oscillates between withholding any information on the subject, expressing concern about the increase in crime (for which foreigners are blamed), denying the new inhuman practices, and claiming that it is just fake news coming from the propaganda of Muslim fundamentalism[1].

To tell the horrifying stories of dozens of Swedish families (yes, because the law affects them too, especially in the strata of the dispossessed and the handicapped) there is only a small NGO in Gothenburg, Mina Rättigheter[2] (My Rights), which, after managing to bring a few hundred baffled and furious Swedes to the streets[3], is now being attacked by everyone: the government parties and Muslim extremists. The former because they defend the LVU and its application. The latter because they only defend the interests of Muslim victims[4]. The largest part of the victims, however, are people of different religions who fled the war in Syria, temporarily hosted in Scandinavia, and then sent home without their children[5]. This is unacceptable.

The Sweden we hoped would be forgotten

Two Syrian refugees plead unsuccessfully for their children to be returned by Swedish social services[6]

The history of racial hatred is as old as mankind, beginning with family feuds, parochialism between neighbouring villages, and fear of all things foreign. Over the last two centuries, following the profound transformations brought about by the French Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution, the end of colonialism and the shock of the Second World War, the attitude of politics towards the ‘foreigner’ has changed a great deal. The foreigner has become a valuable asset for the growth of industrial economies and for the support of welfare policies that require increasing numbers of taxpayers in areas where the birth rate has been declining for decades.

There remain occasional events, xenophobic movements, inter-religious hatred, which used to be directed mainly against Jews and which now affects Muslims, especially because of the intolerant and violent attitude of someone Muslim countries towards the faithful of other religions. What remains are the irregular waves of extreme right-wing parties and the most reactionary populism, which are a growing problem as the memory of the Holocaust and the horrors of German concentration camps and Soviet gulags fades with the deaths of those who experienced them personally.

Today, the battle for multiculturalism is played out between the emergency of the continuous growth of asylum seekers from an ever-increasing number of geographical areas and, on the other hand, the ability of governments to implement efficient integration projects. A field in which Sweden has been teaching for decades. But even here things change quickly: it is not only the government that is giving way, due to the growing popular consensus for the right wing, but society as a whole, especially in less densely populated areas, and the bureaucracy: the latter, overwhelmed by the numbers, is no longer able to perform the task of accompanying the integration and entry of migrants, and starts to react with violence, repression, arbitrariness and cynicism. A completely new picture.

Sweden is, in the collective imagination, a kind of paradise on earth. The novels by Stieg Larsson and the even more detailed novels on the Scandinavian social and values crisis written by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö in the last century were not enough. The reason for this image is the welfare model: an offer for a high quality of life and a safe environment in which to bring up one’s children. Egalitarianism, deeply rooted in Swedish culture, gives us the image of a nation that safeguards gender and minority rights, and shows a strong respect for nature and a profound environmental culture – so much so that it was here that the first ecological party was founded, in 1981[7] – sensitive, modern, tolerant, generous, empathetic and altruistic people.

Asylum seekers stranded at the borders of Sweden[8]

There is a proud national narrative of ‘Swedish exceptionalism’ in the reception of refugees. But is it really all that idyllic? Politics and society have, as in other countries, gone through a painful process of denazification and state violence towards the different and the disabled[9]: to what extent has this process really been completed in Sweden? In the 1990s, John Ausonius, a racist sniper who terrorised Swedish cities between 1991 and 1992[10], made the headlines, reminding us that the Nazi danger lives on in the national subconscious; more recently it was the Norwegian neo-Nazi Anders Breivik, on 22 July 2011, who killed 77 people with a rifle and a car bomb in Oslo and on the island of Utoya, while a Social Democratic Youth Federation camp was in progress[11].

Sweden is therefore a country of contradictions, with a sincere inclination towards multiculturalism, but forced to come to terms with the proliferation of pockets of racism and nationalism that demand the preservation of the Swedish identity. In spite of everything, the liberal and hospitable orientation has been winning for decades: between 2010 and 2020, more than 1.3 million migrants[12] have found a new homeland in Sweden: when compared to a population of just over 10 million natives, one cannot but be impressed. All this has happened (apparently) in great harmony, without any particular integration difficulties, giving all new citizens easy and direct access to society and the world of work.

Things changed in 2015: a new, particularly large wave of migrants destabilised balances that had become precarious, fuelling widespread xenophobic sentiments among the natives and giving extremist, populist and right-wing parties the opportunity to ride the wave with tight propaganda[13], the macabre fruits of which are visible, on the one hand, in the significant increase in acts of violence against foreigners, and on the other in a radical change in the attitude of the state bureaucracy towards those requesting reception.

The shadow of a cumbersome past

1935: Meeting of the Swedish National Socialist Party[14]

A few years before the outbreak of the Second World War, between 1930 and 1933, various extremist formations gathered in the Swedish National Socialist Party (SNSP) led by Birger Furugård: a party that, in 1932, counted more than 50 local sections and about 3000 members, and whose central themes were the preservation of Swedish identity and its protection from Americanisation, the preservation of the Christian faith and eugenics[15]. In 1934 the Swedish National Federation Party (SNF), founded in 1916, also embraced Nazi ideology, and was the only extreme right-wing party to have three elected members in the Riksdag[16].

From a rib of the SNSP was born the National Socialist Workers Party (NSAP), which in 1938 changed its name to the Swedish Socialist Assembly (SSS), keeping the distinctly nationalist and anti-Semitic character, but trying to give itself a more “Swedish” look, removing the swastika symbol and abolishing the fascist salute[17]. Always from a rib of the SNSP was born the National Socialist Bloc (NSB), extremely anti-Semitic and a strong supporter of “racial superiority”[18]. In 1941 a separatist group of the SNF founded the Svensk Opposition (SO), with Per Engdahl as leader, considered one of the most influential politicians of Swedish fascism of the 1920s. After the war, the organisation was renamed the New Sweden Movement and survived until Per Engdahl’s death in 1994[19].

After the fall of Hitler, the Social Democrats, who include two Nobel Prize winners, Gunnar and Alva Myrdal, who are fervent supporters of eugenics, so dear to the Nazis, carry out a sterilisation programme against people who, according to certain guidelines, must remain alien to the new and ordered industrial society that the “social engineering” preached by Myrdal is creating for the country[20]. Between 1935 and 1976, about 62,000 people – 90% of them women – are subjected to forced sterilization with the aim of guaranteeing welfare by eliminating the weakest citizens. The indications are of abnormal cruelty: the subjects affected are “mentally handicapped, mixed-race individuals, single mothers (with unstable lifestyles), the unemployed, gypsies and other people of a different nature”, all in the name of preserving the “pure Swedish race”[21].

On a political level, the xenophobic extreme right showed that it was well established: in the early 1950s alliances such as the ‘Black International of Malmöe’, the headquarters of the European Social Movement, were formed[22]. In the 1960s it was the turn of the Nazi supremacist group ‘Northern European Ring’[23]. The 1990s saw a boom of new militants in places like Ludvika, Smedjebacken, Borlänge, Hedemora and Mora[24]. The semi-clandestine paramilitary nucleus Vikt Ariskt Motstånd (“White Aryan Resistance”), among many others, was born, and in recent decades the Nazi-skin gangs of Svenska Motståndsrörelsen (Swedish Resistance Movement), street thugs who are the protagonists of numerous acts of violence against foreigners and Jews, have caused a sensation[25].

The Nazi and anti-Semitic movement Svenska Motståndsrörelsen, notorious for its acts of violence, parades in Stockholm in 2009[26]

In 1994 the National Socialist Front (NSF) was founded in Karlskrona and ran in local elections in both 2002 and 2006, but failed to enter parliament: it was Sweden’s largest neo-Nazi party until its dissolution in November 2008[27]. The party’s goals are the abolition of democracy, the forced repatriation of immigrants, the internment of communists in labour camps, the extermination of Jews, a national eugenics plan and tax cuts for families with genetically healthy children[28].

After the NSF years the scene was occupied by Sverigedemokraterna (SD Sweden Democrats), a nationalist and xenophobic party with roots in the Preserve Sweden Swedish and White Aryan Resistance organisations[29]. During the 1990s, the party broke its ties with neo-Nazism and focused on opposing immigration as too costly. The party joined the Riksdag in 2010 and for years has maintained a 20% share of the vote, and having never been part of any government, it is a reference point for those calling for radical changes[30]. The perceived increase in foreign crime is their lifeblood[31].

But the political majority continues undaunted with the policy of reception: on the one hand there is the question of the country’s public image, so damaged by the shadows of the past, and on the other an unquestionable pragmatism. Sweden, like all opulent countries in the West, has few children, and life expectancy is constantly increasing. This means that, in order to maintain welfare at the level reached in the industrial boom years, it is necessary, every year, to significantly increase the labour market and domestic consumption, as well as the number of young people who, with their taxes, contribute to financing the pension and poverty support system.

A Swedish immigration history

Swedes were also a major emigrant: between 1850 and 1930, more than 1.3 million left their homeland. Photo shows a Swedish family arriving in Minnesota in 1880[32]

The history of migration in Sweden is quite complex. From the German contamination caused by the Hanseatic League taking over the island of Gøtland in the Middle Ages, to later migrations – Romanians, Walloons, Jews, French, Italians and Scots – until the great emigration between the mid-1800s and 1930s, when more than 1.3 million Swedes left their homeland for the United States, Canada, South America and Australia in search of better living conditions[33]. The exodus was slowed down by the restrictions imposed during the First World War, and from the Second World War onwards, with the entry of refugees from Germany, the Baltic States and the neighbouring Nordic countries, Sweden once again became a land of immigration: from Italy, Greece, Yugoslavia and Turkey[34]. From then on, the balance between emigration and immigration was almost always in favour of the latter.

On 1 July 1969, the Swedish Immigration Board was set up to enforce the new laws that required immigrants to prove that they had safe food and accommodation in order to obtain an entry visa[35]. The Immigration Board also had the task of regulating entry flows based on work opportunities: if Sweden really needed foreign labour then the immigrant could enter, otherwise permits were denied, with exceptions such as refugees, family reunions and permits for citizens who had the right to move between Nordic countries; the duration of residence permits was reduced from seven to five years – a rule that is still in force today[36].

In the 1980s, asylum seekers arrived from Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Eritrea, Somalia, Kosovo and Eastern Europe[37]. In 1985, the management of migrants was transferred to the Swedish Immigration Council (now the Swedish Immigration Agency), which opted for a policy of geographical dispersion: immigrants were scattered as much as possible to ease the pressure on large cities; this produced negative results, upsetting the balance of small local realities and creating extreme difficulties for the social and employment integration of immigrants[38]. In the 1990s, Yugoslavia imploded, pouring over 100,000 refugees into Sweden (142,000 asylum applications from 1984 to 1999[39]). A few years later, Stockholm welcomed over 3,600 Albanians (between 1992 and 1999, over 41,000 asylum applications from Kosovo[40]).

In 1995 Sweden joined the European Union, and the European Council invited the member states to a common asylum and migration policy[41]. However, the exponential growth of asylum requests began to make the reception mechanisms creak, the time needed to obtain permits grew longer and the frequent lack of identity documents made regularisation operations more difficult. In 1997, the age limit for family reunification was changed from 18 to 20 years, the possibility for elderly parents, particularly widows and widowers, to be reunited with their children in Sweden was excluded and the possibility of reuniting the last “family link” remaining in the country was removed[42].

In the spring of 2001 Sweden joined the Schengen treaty[43], which led to a further influx of EU citizens looking for work. In the same year, the law allowing dual citizenship was passed[44], and in 2005 the Parliament granted a review of over 30,000 applications from migrants who had been refused visas but were living in the country[45]. From 2006 onwards, in an attempt to make the mechanism more efficient, new laws were passed. Some try to discourage stay, such as tuition fees for non-EU students (2011), while others extend the rights of non-regulars to health care (2013) [46].

Number of immigrants per year accepted in Sweden between 2010 and 2020[47]

The measures taken by the government up to this point have never taken the form of law enforcement instruments, but seek efficiency in the emergency. This line is mainly due to the Social Democratic Party, the oldest in the Riksdag, which has been in government for most of the 20th century, and which has the consensus of a satisfied population. Things change when Stockholm is also forced to deal with the explosion in the number of immigrants, linked to worsening living conditions in the Third World.

In 2015, a new and difficult phase begins, during which we witness the highest flow of asylum seekers ever seen in the old continent: new and old conflicts, especially in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, put millions of people on the run, who seek, if they can, refuge in the European Union[48] and reach Scandinavia by crossing the Bosporus and following the Balkan route[49]. In 2015, there were 1,325,000 asylum seekers in Europe[50], an impressive number compared to the previous year’s figure of 216,000, an increase of 500%[51]. Sweden saw the largest influx of asylum seekers ever recorded in an OECD country[52]: 134,240 arrivals, rising to 163,005 in 2016[53]. The wave of refugees – now arriving at around 10,000 a week – is forcing the country to change its policy[54].

The xenophobic wind is rising

Attacks by Naziskin on foreign citizens in Stockholm[55]

An example of the mentality of Sweden’s leading politicians: in November 2015, the then Deputy Prime Minister Asa Romson of the Green Party announced stricter rules towards refugees and asylum seekers, and burst into tears[56]. The new rules, aligned with those dictated by the EU, are already being applied from the beginning of November: many permits, once issued, are only temporary, family reunification is made more complicated if not impossible, but above all border controls are intensified, on trains crossing the Øresund bridge between Sweden and Denmark and at the ferry terminals arriving from Denmark and Germany[57].

The Swedish welfare state has for decades been a highly efficient model and a source of pride. It is a system almost completely subsidised by taxation, guaranteeing free education (including universities), social assistance with access to public health services for everyone, assistance for the elderly, social security that covers paid absences from work to care for sick or disabled children, economic support for children up to 16 years of age, housing allowances for those who cannot afford it, support for the unemployed and pensioners, and for anyone who does not have sufficient economic possibilities. This is a very expensive model, which Sweden has supported by allocating a large percentage of its public expenditure to it, and has thus managed to rank first among European countries in terms of quality of life[58].

An experiment in combining a flourishing market economy with an efficient welfare state. But in the transition from industrial to post-industrial society, things change radically, and economic reforms, together with a low birth rate, undermine the sustainability of the welfare state. Private companies are introduced in the management of welfare, in practically every sphere – today, for example, 27% of health care and about 400 schools are managed by private companies[59] – betraying an essential principle, the pride of the social democrats, but this allows a considerable saving of resources, in part reinvested in their own services, with the aim of making them even more efficient.

The financial crisis of 2008 dealt a heavy blow to the state coffers, leading to the bankruptcy of many companies in the space of a few weeks, rising unemployment and a marked reduction in tax revenue[60]. The rise in migration waves comes at precisely this time, requiring even more resources. The ability to manage relocation is diminished, the first urban ghettos are created. Cities such as Södertälje – which by 2020 will have 56.6 per cent foreign inhabitants[61] – and Malmö – 47.2 per cent[62] – are just two examples: the difficulty of guaranteeing control, schooling, sustenance and assistance has disastrous effects on the integration of entire communities and their quality of life, and this affects social behaviour.

The national sentiment of a population that, after decades of prosperity, is for the first time feeling the effects of a severe crisis is being severely tested and is now ill-disposed towards “non-Swedes”, seen as a further aggravation of an already difficult situation, especially in the employment field[63]. Xenophobic sentiments began to rise, and at the same time data on a progressive increase in crime were published. A study by Brå, a Swedish statistical agency specialising in crime, examines 22 European countries, and reveals that, while in 21 of them gun deaths have fallen over the last 20 years, in Sweden they are rising steadily: yet, as recently as 2000, it was at the bottom of the list[64].

No one is yet clear about the real reasons for the increase in homicides, but the media are increasingly talking about a correlation with the increase of migrants, and extreme right-wing parties are blowing the whistle[65]. The criminal propensity among individuals of foreign origin is an increasingly heated topic of debate. The growing number of drug gangs[66] (there are estimated to be at least a dozen in Gothenburg alone[67]), especially in areas where poverty is most pronounced, is spreading feelings of intolerance among citizens[68]. Hate crimes are on the increase. Social networks are becoming exceptional propaganda tools for the reorganisation of right-wing extremist groups[69], and manifestations of racial violence are multiplying[70], such as the fires that have been set in dozens of reception centres for asylum seekers since 2016[71].

Urban warfare unleashed by a group of Islamophobes in Malmöe in 2020[72]

Brå in 2021 tries to identify the motives: according to the report, of the 3398 complaints received in 2020, the xenophobic and racist motive occupies the largest slice, i.e. 55%, (17% for religious reasons,) 13% for LGBTQI hatred (sexual orientation), the remaining 15% for unspecified reasons[73]. Recognising the link between rising violence and decades of liberal immigration policy is difficult for both the Social Democrats and the Greens. Encouraged by the Sweden Democrats and the uproar triggered by the shooting of well-known rapper Nils “Einár” Grönberg in Hammarby Sjöstad[74], the new Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, in December 2021, is forced to expose herself on the subject of criminal gangs and to have to publicly admit a relationship between reception policies and rising crime[75].

To counter the rising tide of hostility, the government is putting in place new measures and strengthening others that already existed in the past: an approach that aims at better coordination, more education and research, more support and dialogue with civil society, more online prevention work and a more active judiciary[76]. The weight of the reform falls on the shoulders of the Forum for Living History, a government agency tasked with acting as a national forum for the promotion of democracy, tolerance and human rights[77], which monitors the situation on the ground and organises public initiatives using the weapons of education, awareness and research[78]. The Swedish Defence Research Agency (FOI), on the other hand, is tasked with mapping various forms of racism in digital environments, while police authorities are involved in increased coordination on racial issues[79].

Sweden changes strategy

A graph covering the first six months of 2015 highlights Sweden’s propensity to welcome people compared to other EU countries[80]

Sweden follows the principle that welfare comes from equality and a good quality of life. But Swedish welfare has gradually lost its ability to create equality: increasingly liberal market policies have introduced widespread forms of illegality such as corruption, which were once unthinkable. A report by Transparency International ranks Sweden as the most corrupt country in Scandinavia, where the progressive deterioration is frightening[81]. Undeclared work[82], unemployment and crime are concentrated in clearly identified areas, such as Stockholm[83], which Sweden never imagined it would have to deal with. High migration flows and the recent pandemic are putting a strain on social balances. The ongoing crisis in neighbouring Ukraine also raises the prospect of a new wave of refugees[84] and this time being prepared is imperative.

But it will not be easy for the social democrats to maintain the welcoming line, because the consensus of the people, driven by the Sweden Democrats and their own fears, will be lacking. The exact opposite is happening. It is not possible to privatise humanitarian aid, as other European experiences have already shown, such as in Italy – where refugee centres have turned into concentration camps where companies that are not entirely transparent have made millions on the skin of asylum seekers[85]. A private company does not save the weakest, but earns money, no matter how. There is no humane solution that can wave a magic wand and solve two opposing issues: the need for a new workforce to support welfare with its taxes and the refusal to accept new adults from distant cultures, who need years to learn the language but who, if accepted, must necessarily have access to the same favourable treatment as their fellow Swedes. Keeping the children and kicking their parents out is inhuman. It is a new form of eugenics, similar to that practised by Sweden in the years of National Socialism. If we Europeans were to accept it, it could also be our future. An unacceptable future.


[1] ;








[9]—white-paper-on-abuses-and-rights-violations-against-roma-in-the-20th-century-ds-20148 (violence against gypsies); (against psychic patients); (against people with disabilities)






[15]å auktoritära ideologiers utbredning i Sverige och Norrbotten under 1930-talet och fram till Andra världskrigets slut – med fokus på Piteåbygden”  – Maria Berglund – 2004 Historia

[16] “Två auktoritära ideologiers utbredning i Sverige och Norrbotten under 1930-talet och fram till Andra världskrigets slut – med fokus på Piteåbygden”  – Maria Berglund – 2004 Historia

[17] “Två auktoritära ideologiers utbredning i Sverige och Norrbotten under 1930-talet och fram till Andra världskrigets slut – med fokus på Piteåbygden”  – Maria Berglund – 2004 Historia

[18] “Två auktoritära ideologiers utbredning i Sverige och Norrbotten under 1930-talet och fram till Andra världskrigets slut – med fokus på Piteåbygden”  – Maria Berglund – 2004 Historia

[19] “Två auktoritära ideologiers utbredning i Sverige och Norrbotten under 1930-talet och fram till Andra världskrigets slut – med fokus på Piteåbygden”  – Maria Berglund – 2004 Historia




[23] “Colin Jordan and Britain’s Neo-Nazi Movement” – Paul Jackson · 2016


[25] ; “Extremistisk ideologi i den retoriska kampen om sanningen – fallet Nordiska motståndsrörelsen på sociala medier och i lokalpress” Helena Blomberg, Mälardalens högskola, Lars Båtefalk, Högskolan Dalarna, Jonas Stier – Interkulturellt utvecklingscentrum Dalarna (IKUD) – 2018









[34] “The Integration of Immigrants into the Labour Market: the Case of Sweden” – Directorate for Employement, Labour and Social Affairs, Georges Lemaître – 21/02/2007




[38] “The Integration of Immigrants into the Labour Market: the Case of Sweden” – Directorate for Employement, Labour and Social Affairs, Georges Lemaître – 21/02/2007
















































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