Multiculturalism and immigration in Sweden


A chapter from my book The Swedish Story (2013)

”Sweden received many immigrants after 1945 that wanted to leave their war torn countries and were in demand from booming manufacturing industries.

They became a part of working life and Swedish society. With no racial streaks from bounds to former colonies or imported slaves, Sweden seemed like a hospitable country with a homogenous but quite bland population. Boredom, cold winters and small language were manageable obstacles.

Since the mid 1970s when borders were closed for migrant workers, Sweden has received mainly refugees from countries in internal conflicts, dictatorships or victims of catastrophes. Some refugees were more motivated by social and economic reasons to enter Sweden, than political, but questions were few, especially during the Balkan crisis 1992-1995, Somalia 1991- , Iraq and Afghanistan wars 2003 and many other regions in disorder or chaos (Middle East, north and central Africa and Latin America).

Lack of strict regulations from government and social authorities to push immigrants to provide for their own livelihood has led to harsh living conditions in certain suburbs around the major cities, lower employment rates, parallel cultures to the Swedish and a division in society between the native Swedes and the newly arrived. With seven years on average for a male immigrant to provide for his or her own living, restlessness stir from both immigrants not feeling accepted and Swedes paying for their livelihood.

Outspoken racism is rare but exists in small white supremacist groups, usually disgruntled young males in rural areas. The Sweden democrats party are often portrayed as racist but are more of a traditionally nationalist nostalgic party similar to True Finns with 20 % in Finland, Fremskrittspartiet with 23 % in Norway and Dansk Folkeparti 12 % in Denmark.

In the 2010 election, the Sweden democrats entered parliament for the first time as the 6th largest party (of 8) with 5.7 %. in 2014 the party got almost 13 %. The lack of a representation of nationalist parties before 2010 is due to the well organised socialist working class structures absorbing all opposition. The anxiety of media and establishment to acknowledge any problems with immigration backfired in 2010, when the Sweden democrats could portray themselves as martyrs of Swedish political correctness and gain votes, especially from traditional workers living in areas with many immigrants, where few journalists would enter voluntarily, not to speak of living there.

Liberal party Folkpartiet gained many votes in 2002 by arguing that a language test should be a requirement for citizenship. Sweden is unique (along with a few Western nations) in having no demands at all, besides living for four years and being reasonably non-criminal. But ruling Folkpartiet ministers have not dared to bring its own 2002 idea to parliament due to its unpopularity in the left leaning media and self-proclaimed anti-racist leagues.

The party gave anti-Islamist Somali-Dutch activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali its Demokratipris in 2005, but has since turned away from any views that could endanger the anxious party priggish stand on immigration. Islamophobia is the word used when racism is not applicable to any proposal that can be interpreted as sign of racism.

A view of native Swedes as intrinsically racist has become an accepted point of view, when two other disrespectful racist views are probably more prevalent. Primary view, one ethnic immigrant group negative to another immigrant group and second, immigrants turning negative towards Swedes (as the gang rapists did and their backers). Few Swedes dare to speak openly outside small groups they trust about this, but some books exist outside mainstream media[1].

Immigrants are often more outspoken, also about their fellow faulty countrymen and can discuss what goes on around them without fearing harassment, censorship or censoring themselves. Swedes are starting to understand what a laughing stock they have become among immigrants but usually keep quiet.

Journalists who have a job to write about these kinds of events and issues, such as illegal immigration, welfare frauds, plans for terrorism or criminal immigrants, do not do their work well. Stories and actual documents from illegal or dubious immigration cases at the Migration Board are available in print on the 466 pages collected by writer and migration activist Merit Wager and online everywhere except in print, television or radio. Each story would be possible to cover respectfully with regard to ethical guidelines by Union of Swedish Journalists.

Readers would get useful information, politicians would discuss policies and an open debate would follow. Or a media hunt. Journalist Jan Guillou tried already in 1980s to present Romani gypsies living in Sweden as true as he could do, which is quite well since he disclosed the Swedish intelligence service IB in 1973 and served one year in prison for doing it. Even his sober presentation was interpreted as implicitly racist[2].

Given the Swedish tradition of being silent, doing what is right and being kind and nice to people in dire circumstances, it is no hard guess that many Swedish authorities were and still are taken for a  ride by clever immigrants of all kinds. Or not so clever as the Chilean travel agency in Valpariso which sold the same four stories named A or B or C or D along with a single ticket to Stockholm in the 1980s. The so called political refugees from the Chilean dictatorship were regular criminals, acquitted from prisons by general Pinochet just like President Fidel Castro had done with the reality behind the film character Tony Montana of Scarface and his compañeros about the same time.

Same shady mechanisms would work in transition to Sweden involving fake passports and ages, smugglers, making up stories and identities along the way. Many refugees that has come the last 30 years are hard-working and honest people who had to leave their countries with more or less decent reasons according to international conventions in Geneva or to amendments due to humanitarian, subsidiary protection or otherwise in need of protection.  But migration policies are not an exact science. Norway and Finland who have signed exactly the same conventions and protocols allow much less immigrants into their countries.

Contrary to official statistics, a fourth of accepted refugees have by UN, EU or domestic legal agreements right to stay, the rest do not.  96 % of all asylum seekers do not carry passports so the frustration of civil servants at the Migration Board and among police officers is boiling[3]. Receiving 100 000 people a year in a country of 9 million, Sweden is given high ratings and praise from UNHCR and EU. 20 % of residents in Sweden have now foreign background.

The costs of immigration are around $7- 14 billion due to higher unemployment, retraining many without education and higher expenses. The argument that sparsely populated and aging Sweden needs more people does not hold as the immigrants get old too and work less than as much as the Swedes do. Only a huge rise (15 %) of more employed immigrants would make Sweden break even in costs and benefits, which is less likely to happen and though utopian official policy, seldom discussed sensibly even by economists[4].

Why Sweden must receive twice as many immigrants than Norway and Denmark is usually answered that Sweden has to be more open. But if the majority of the refugees do not have legal right to stay or a workplace waiting, why must Sweden accept them? With a view of Sweden as an exceptionally decent country, a world champion in morals, it follows logically from the preceding chapters that Sweden must do what no one else does because it is the best alternative.

Calculations of resources spent on housing, livelihood, education, administration and security in receiving immigrants give that resources spent in neighboring countries (Kenya, Pakistan, Turkey etc.) are many more times effective. But even these conclusions are brushed away as implicit racism as much else. With few frank and open discussions, strange discussions start online and racism grows.

Real racism, not the kind directed to minister of culture Lena Adelsohn-Liljeroth, who accidentally cut a cake consisting of a black naked woman with the black artist Makode Linde laying under the serving table screaming in spring 2012, causing world attention and critique. The Museum of Modern Art in Stockholm had invited her and led her to the table with no intention to make an implicitly racist scene nor did she know what was happening when someone gave her a cake knife. Yet the Afro- Swedish Association blamed her as racist since she was cutting up a black woman and between the legs.

The issue blew all over the world and the mad connection of the cake with female genital mutilation was forgotten. Artist Makode Linde was not forgotten and his sensation gave a boost to his art sales. Minister Adelsohn- Liljeroth apologized. If this welfare art trick is racist, there are no words left for the real thing.

The tradition of exceptional Swedish openness in spite of even Swedish evidence to the contrary has a recent history. During the Balkan crisis summer of 1992, more than 30 000 people entered from Kosovo, the Albanian part of the failing Yugoslavian state. A few percent of them had legal status but the majority was out of work due to conflicts in other parts of Yugoslavia and in Switzerland.

The minister in charge, liberal Birgit Friggebo, did not act but told the Migration Board, who were putting up tents when renting expensive hotels was not enough, to do the necessary. Diplomatic and UNHCR reports confirmed that the leaving Kosovo Albanians were better cared for where they were and faced unemployment rather than political repression, but to no avail.  The socialists who had closed borders to some extent while in charge in 1989 brought integration minister Friggebo, prime minister Carl Bildt and head Christina Rogestam of Migration Board to the Constitutional Court at Swedish parliament. Bildt was ruled as “not able to fail critique”[5].

This was the last time the socialists criticized their center-right opponents for being too open with immigration policies. Following decades, socialists would compete with left wing party, green party and liberals in being most open to immigration. The minority cabinet of Fredrik Reinfeldt does not have majority in parliament after the 2010 election and has been forced to seek support from the green environmentalist party. In exchange for support, the Greens have gained acceptance for receiving around 15 000 Somalis without legal documents, no restrictions of proofs of identity and support for free hospital treatment to immigrants residing in Sweden illegally, that is people residing there after their cases have been rejected in asylum or other courts and with a verdict to leave the country immediately.

Further, fears of terrorist attacks have grown since Sweden became a target for Islamist terror. It was not always so. Osama Bin Ladin actually mentioned Sweden in November 2004 around the George W. Bush re-election campaign. Bin Ladin explained in a grainy video why Al-Qaeda “attacks USA and not Sweden for example”.

Another leading Al-Qaeda ideologue, Al- Abu Mus’ab al-Suri, supported also the Scandinavian countries due to their lax security and generous welfare systems[6]. Since then much has happened which has lead Al-Qaeda to put Sweden as No. 1 enemy in their glossy terror magazine Inspire, summer issue 2010.[7] The enemy Sweden sent forces to Afghanistan under NATO and UN supervision and the artist Lars Wilks had portrayed the prophet Muhammed as a dog. These actions resulted in two aborted terror attacks, one in Sweden and one in Denmark but done by Swedes or residents of North African and Middle Eastern origins.

On  the 10th December 2010, Taimour Abdulwahab al-Abdaly accidentally blew himself up instead of his target, Christmas shoppers by a pedestrian street in central Stockholm. He sent messages to media and police before the fatal incident, mentioning Swedish troops in Afghanistan and the artist Wilks and called “all Mujahedin in Europe and Sweden” to follow his fight.

19 days later on December 29, 2010, five men of Middle Eastern and North African origins were caught in Copenhagen by Danish and Swedish secret police before they could execute their plan. They had prepared to kill journalists and others at the Danish daily Jyllands-Posten that five years before had published cartoons of the prophet Muhammed, which had ignited more than 100 deaths and violent stormings of Danish embassies in Muslim countries.

Four of the terrorists reside in Sweden and three are Swedish citizens. An attack was also aborted in Bosnia in 2005 where Misrad Bektasevic, a jihadist Swede of Balkan descent, almost succeeded to blow up a bomb in central Sarajevo in collaboration with the real Al-Qaeda network. Artist Lars Wilks has had several attempts on his life, been attacked twice at universities (Karlstad, Uppsala) and at his residence including arson.  Then in July 2011, white supremacist counter-jihadist Anders Behring Breivik killed 8 government employees in central Oslo, Norway and 69 youngsters at Utøya Island from the socialist Workers’ Youth League. The three aborted jihadist attacks would not even combined have ended in so many casualties.

Keeping these attacks in mind and many other incidents where immigrants were victims or perpetrators, falsely using Swedish welfare and fooling migration authorities but also being under attacks from Sweden democrats, has led to no possibility of a normal debate about immigration in Swedish parliament, municipal councils and certainly not in the press. There have been small streaks of racism before World War II, but since 1945 Sweden has made many efforts to keep all such concepts out of discussion about foreigners.

The opposite view that Swedish racism has been severely overestimated is rather true. Tendencies in mainstream media and policy discussions accuse normal native Swedes of racism and find racist structures in government, labour market, culture, health and schools. Insisting on respect for cultural traditions from other mostly Muslim countries, such as separate times for men and women at public baths, divided classrooms according to gender or carrying of female dresses of niquab and burqua while in school or work, divide Swedes and immigrants into unfortunate groups blaming each other for racism in a cacophony seldom heard in public debate before.

The very idea of being Swedish versus of immigrant origins, has turned many discussions sour, as some vocal defenders of multiculturalism want to have it both ways –  respect for identity of people born abroad or with foreign parents and respect for their Swedishness. Even the word immigrant is not used much as it may exclude or harass people who have been born in Sweden but look foreign.

There are fuzzy lines if one goes beyond the mere fact of Swedish citizenship as what counts as Swedish, but people calling themselves Swedish and some others immigrants are not inherently racist. Reference to Swedish culture, Sweden as nation and Swedes are ridiculed, mostly by priggish Swedish journalists and grounds for victimization, hurt feelings and claims of rewards. A state television reporter was surprised in 2009 when musicians played the national anthem and asked whether the song might not be viewed politically right- wing and nationalist.

The Swedish flag has been center of similar bans as schools have asked pupils not to wear t-shirts or wave the yellow and blue flag as it could be interpreted as racist. The only ones who wave the flag and celebrate the national holiday with pride are immigrants who are happy to be in a free and decent country.

Unlike in 1930s when nationalism went right in Europe under Mussolini and Hitler, but left in Sweden, the socialists have abandoned any affirmation of nationalism as at worst racist, or at best parochial. Per Albin Hansson was able to transform feelings of patriotism using the neologism folkhemmet cleverly and turning Swedish social democracy into an exception[8]. Contemporary left leaning leader shun all such references  in favour of EU and globalism, thus losing all patriotism to the nationalist party Sweden democrats.

The situation of identifying criminal immigrants can be labeled racist. Lund University had problems of theft in 2010 and a security officer sent out a mail to staff at computer labs to look out for people with Indian or Asian features. Soon the mail was reported to the university bureau of discrimination and media and had to be rephrased so no one could identify any thieves.

Stockholm police office published a report on heroin peddling and found out that many Gambians were involved. Whether this was true or not was not analyzed, but the mentioning of this particular immigrant group was and the report was labeled racist. The last extreme story comes from the commercial television network TV3. In their talk show on wanted criminals, a clip from a surveillance camera was shown of man with non- Swedish features robbing a store, but with his face mostly blurred with a white square. A police asked viewers if they could identify this man and the studio host repeated the message, “If you recognize this man, please call this number”.

Faces of Swedish criminals are shown though. Stories like these make people frustrated and distrustful of media and establishment. Doctors protest against proposals from Migration Board on medical examinations of young people who claim to be minors under 18 years and entering easily. The doctors believe such measurements of skeleton and teeth examination are racist. Et ad infinitum.

Most immigrants find these discussions futile while some other vocal immigrants (Group D below) defend normal and universal values among Swedes and other civilizations. They defend Swedes against attacks from other immigrants (Group C below) with their agenda of multiculturalism, often aligned with radical leftism and feminism[9].

Intersectionality is the latest PoMo/PC buzzword but may have gone stale already. These self-proclaimed anti-racist attackers who are researchers, activists and media people are mostly funded by the Swedish government and act as spokespeople for all immigrants, telling them that Swedes do not like them, want them to leave and keep all jobs to native Swedes.

In that way, they claim Swedes to be racist and themselves to be on the anti-racist side, but the opposite is sometimes true.  Sociology professor Masoud Kamali of Iranian descent and his subordinates pushed out other researchers from the 2004 parliamentary commission on integration because they were native Swedes and thus by default could not do research on structural racism in Sweden, a fact that was taken for granted by Kamali but not by other social scientists[10]. Socialist minister of integration Mona Sahlin obeyed his call for absolute powers over the commission, enrolled almost only of immigrant scholars and dismissed the Swedish professors.

Sadly the idea of Sweden as a racist country prevails within the left, socialist, green and in multicultural advocacy groups with the result that some easily fooled immigrants give up hopes of being integrated and start hating Swedes. A change in labour policy that may give work to jobless immigrants is attacked for being inherently racist. No jobs are better than low wages the multiculturalists argue.

The left wants to have even stricter rules for employers who now have to make diversity plans each year for ethnic and gender equality. Still the labour market is overregulated and Swedish employers behave very well in hiring people of non-Swedish origins[11].

But being dragged to court because you asked a prospective employee to shake your hand and fined $10 000 for doing so do not make employers happier to hire strangers. This happened to an employer who had a female manager that was rejected by a Muslim trainee who preferred to hold his had close to his heart as Muslims do in Muslims countries[12]. She was fined for asking.

Most immigrants do not care about such nonsense and they are luckily in majority. A simple and imprecise but useful way to understand the field of discourses on migration and integration is to divide all immigrants residing in Sweden into four groups:

A – overwhelming majority of honest, working or work searching immigrants

B – disloyal minority, violent, trouble makers, fraudulent behaviour, criminal[13]

C–  self chosen spokesmen for all immigrants, multicultural and self- proclaimed “anti-racist”

D – immigrants that insist on universal rights and duties for all, yet proud of their foreign origins


A do not care much for C, who are defending B against A and D. Neither does A care much for D, But they are very concerned over B, their mostly younger family members who attack Swedes or other immigrants, throw stones at policemen and behave badly in school.

Some of B also are on welfare while working illegally somewhere, but that is a tricky area as there are some in A who are proud workers too, even if illegally. The possibility of someone from D starting a discussion about how badly B behaves may lead C to appeal to Godwin’s law and replace Hitler with Breivik and then the discussion and sanity ends. Godwin’s law states that anyone that can relate any political discussion to Adolf Hitler by using the trick of guilt by association has won. It is a joke abroad and online but reality in Sweden.

Months after the horrible Norwegian tragedy, any sensible discussion about problems around immigration lead C to attack D and all Swedes for implying support for Breivik and thus the meek Swedish journalists were silenced.

As a result of silenced discussions on problems with immigration in the left leaning media, Swedes have highest distrust of media reporting on immigration in EU. 60 % of all polled Swedes do not think they get reliable information from media compared to the average 40 % in EU[14].

Group D exists and does not form a homogenous group of journalists and intellectuals, but they are usually in favour of universal human rights and respect for individuals, against silly forms of multiculturalism and soft headed arguments[15].

When Swedes back down and do not take a fight, they defend Sweden, civic humanism and same rights and duties for all. Sometimes they are called racists, home niggers (husnegrer), Oreo cookies (brown outsides, white insides) Uncle Toms and islamophobes by C. Group A and B exist but not in media.

The vast majority of vocal immigrants either working in media or as activists/ politicians belong to C and are too many to mention.  They have vast support in state television and radio, in academia and in the cultural pages of all newspapers including them with liberal- conservative editorial pages.

Swedish radical academics and journalists use group C as an alibi for their identity politics and hip radicalism, much like Palme and his generation used fighters in the anti-colonial struggles in Asia, Latin America and Africa, to make them feel the heat and strife of hardships for a while. On an American scale, the Swedish group C stand for old identity political multicultural world of Jesse Jackson, while group D is more with Barack Obama, who told black teenagers to study hard and their parents to shape up.

The cultural left and nationalists have more in common than they know. The cultural left is repressing every dissent by using the most Swedish of traits in public discourse, conformism. The nationalists want Sweden to live up to its cultural heritage which include conformism.

By insisting that everyone should share the ideals of multiculturalism (and a certain kind of feminism, share their income with others through high taxes, wear helmets when biking etc.) and keep quiet about problems related to large immigration, the left is being utmost Swedish. The more conservative Sweden democrats have found a secret ally in the public debate as they openly declare nostalgia for the 1930s Swedish socialist folkhem conformism and consensus seeking ideology. Besides conformism, the Sweden democrats defend economic protectionism which parts of the illiberal left does too. What distinguishes them is immigration.

Immigration to Sweden is hailed by the UN but that praise is for the legislation, not for the reality which is another game. It takes as mentioned on average seven years for male immigrants to land a job. Sweden receives more immigrants than similar countries.

Laws for entering and staying are very lax, but firm to adhere to international conventions when immigrants have committed a crime, their application for residence permit has been rejected or they have unclear national status. Sweden keeps sentenced criminals who have done their time in prison because no country wants them back, especially people coming from Africa and Middle East.

Still Swedes have high acceptance for new cultures and want to keep borders as open as possible, polls show. But acceptance is not enough. The combination of large immigration and lax legislation is problematic and will not be solved until all facts are on the table and open for discussion. Every sixth inhabitant in Sweden has foreign roots, some of them negative to more influx of immigrants, some accepting. Socialists have usually strong support in the immigrant population, but that has started to change


Jan Sjunnesson

Video of me with film team  being assulted in Rinkeby 2016 with comments



[1]Karaveli 1997, Arnstberg 1998, Björkman et al 2006, Arnstberg 2008, Eriksson and Rennerfeldt 2009, Caesar 2010a and 2010b and Wager 2011. The last book contain reports from civil servants at the Migration Board who want illegalities, irregularities and mistakes to be known but dare not blow the whistle, thus all of them are anonymous. A pattern repeated since Huntford 1971 interviewed high placed government officials anonymously.

[2] Guillou 2010. Being an independent minded and hardworking journalist and former Maoist, now still left of the left party, he does not care much for feminism or silly mulitculturalism but defends working class values, harassed immigrants and personal integrity. Together with other independent socialist writers Leif GW Persson and Jan Myrdal, he has much influence in contemporary debates. Mostly for the better. Persson always, Myrdal rarely.

[3] Sandelin 2011.

[4] Tullberg 2011.

[5] Sveriges Riksdag. Konstitutionsutskottets Granskningsbetänkande, 1992/93. KU: 30. Del 1, p.104. See also Björkman et al 2006, p.66-73.

[6] In Sandelin 2012, p.39

[7] Sandelin 2012. p.15.

[8] Berman 2006.

[9] A potent mixture where the attackers’ respect for religious and cultural patriarchy lead to tolerance for misogyny, as in debates over honorary killings where the mentioning of the concept of honour being related to feudal traditions in East Africa and Middle East immediately lead to accusations of racism.

It took at least three lives of young people (Fadime Sandahl, Pela Atroshi  and Abbas Rezai) and ten years until these traditional views could be discussed somewhat sensibly by Swedish politicians, researchers and journalists. Sweden has around two known honorary killings per year. Discussions on the merits of receiving immigrants that kill their own family members are heated and calling participants racist for discussing horrific traditions among immigrants rise the temperature to boiling point. Same mechanisms apply to debates on female genital mutilation, halal meat in schools, sharia law, Swedish identity, forced marriages and ethnic strife. Given the Swedish insistence on being kind and nice to all, especially downtrodden strangers, many native Swedes feel uncomfortable when facts are presented and conclusions drawn that imply stricter rules also for immigrants. See Rothstein 2006b for lack of constitutionally based social cohesion in multicultural Sweden and Johansson Heinö 2011 for overview of Swedish immigration debate.

[10] Borg 2006.

[11] Zaremba 2006, Rezania 2007, von Bahr 2011 and von Bahr 2012. In her latest report, von Bahr shows that Swedish employers are less likely to prefer hiring their own citizens than employers in Denmark, Norway, Canada and Germany.

[12] Diskrimineringsombudsmannan 2010.

[13] According to BRÅ 2005, the national Crime Prevention Agency, immigrants are twice as often sentenced. The 2005 report is for 1997-2001 and the agency has not done same report after the large immigrations from Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia since.

[14] European Commission 2011.

[15] Nima and Tino Sanandaji, Harry Schein, Tomas Gür,  Nima Dervish, Nyamko Sabuni, Maciej Zaremba, Dilsa Demirbag-Sten, Merit Wager, Mauricio Rojas, Hanif Bali, Alice Teodorescu, Boris Benulic, Sakine Madon, Arhe Hamednaca and Sara Mohammed among others, and globally,  for example Salman Rushdie  and Kenan Malik.  This group D and the anonymous group A will be part of making Sweden normal and actually save the nation along with more sane, hardworking and aspiring immigrants.


En tanke på “Multiculturalism and immigration in Sweden”


Fyll i dina uppgifter nedan eller klicka på en ikon för att logga in:

Du kommenterar med ditt Logga ut /  Ändra )


Du kommenterar med ditt Facebook-konto. Logga ut /  Ändra )

Ansluter till %s