The Refugee Crisis and Sweden's Perfect Storm

The disaster on the horizon is there for all to see.

In these days I am very worried about Sweden. Never before has the disastrous immigration policy that Sweden implements been so obvious in its failure, as it is these days, when Europe is in the middle of a refugee crisis. Each week, Sweden receives thousands of asylum seekers from the Middle East. At the same time, there are three important questions that the Swedish government cannot answer. The Swedish government does not know where these tens of thousands of asylum seekers will live, how they will be working and how this new wave of immigration will be financed.

Sweden is today going through its worst housing crisis in 50 years. The figures are frightening. According to Boverket, the Swedish National Board of Housing, Building and Planning, Sweden needs to build half a million homes by 2020. But the government’s costly housing initiative that will cost $387 million annually will only lead to 250,000 new homes by 2020. That is the situation today. How the situation will be after the refugee crisis, and how many homes will be needed by then, no one knows. But a whole generation of Swedes will grow up in a society where homelessness will become part of everyday life.

According to the municipal housing office, Boplats Syd, in 2014 you had to wait 1049 days on average in a queue before you could get a tenancy in western Scania, an area where Sweden’s third largest city, Malmö, is included.

In August, Sweden had an unemployment rate of 7 percent. Among young people (15-24 years) in Sweden, the unemployment rate in August was 20 percent. This means that one in five young people in Sweden are unemployed. Unemployment among young people born abroad is 70 percent higher than unemployment among young people born in Sweden.

Most economists in Sweden agree that the asylum seekers coming to Sweden will find it difficult to get jobs in the Swedish labor market, since Sweden is the country in the European Union with the lowest number of low-wage jobs. 2.5 percent of people who work in Sweden have low-wage jobs. This is extreme even in a Scandinavian context, when the same figure for Finland, Denmark and Norway is 5.9 percent, 7.7 percent and 7.3 percent, respectively. In other words, it is difficult to get your first job in Sweden, a painful fact which affects immigrants and young people. The asylum seekers coming to Sweden will probably face prospects of unemployment for several years.

When the new center-left government took over last year, Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson’s first message to the Swedes was that the “barns are empty.” In a Swedish political context, this means that government finances are weak. This message was followed up later with the government saying that it could not afford any major reforms. Thus, it is unclear how Sweden will finance this wave of immigration, where thousands of people from the Middle East arrive in Sweden every week.

Already in February 2015, before the refugee crisis began in earnest, the Swedish Migration Agency announced that it needed an additional $2.2 billion to finance its operations. Because adequate housing is lacking in Sweden, the Migration Agency has to pay for migrants’ accommodations, which means that the more asylum seekers come to Sweden, the more the Migration Agency’s costs increase.

Even the municipal costs will increase as newly arrived migrants often become a heavy financial burden for schools and social services. Sweden already has high taxes. This migration wave cannot be funded by taxpayers when the “barns are empty.”

Today, no politician in Sweden can really explain how this wave of migration is going to be financed. The only option that remains is to impair the social safety nets in Sweden in order to finance the migration wave.

Amidst this dystopian situation where it is obvious that Sweden is facing a socio-economic and geopolitical disaster, there are influential people in Sweden who want to get as many migrants as possible into the country. The Swedish aviation industry has asked the government to amend regulations so commercial airlines can fly non-European nationals seeking asylum, to the European Union. Most newspapers in Sweden celebrate the people who welcome asylum seekers to Sweden. Traffickers smuggling migrants to Sweden are portrayed as heroes in the media. Recently, Swedish police officers uploaded a movie on social media where they welcome refugees to Sweden. Celebrities and newspapers call for tax increases so Sweden can accept more asylum seekers.

But while large parts of the Swedish establishment want to open Sweden to the asylum seekers from the Middle East, Sweden is isolating itself in a European and Scandinavian context. Other countries in Europe are not so enthusiastic about receiving too many migrants. In Finland, people are demonstrating against asylum seekers and Denmark sends the asylum seekers to Sweden. Germany has temporarily left the Schengen Agreement and introduced border controls. Sweden and its migration policy are isolated and seem extreme in the European and Scandinavian context.

Already the migrants who come to Sweden have started to protest. Asylum seekers require homes and jobs, and when they do not get this the reaction becomes anger and frustration. Right now, about 7,000 asylum seekers come to Sweden on a weekly basis. If the number of asylum seekers coming to Sweden each week does not increase, which it will do, more than 90,000 additional asylum seekers will come to Sweden before the end of the year. There will not be job opportunities or housing for them.

With the migration policy that Sweden has now it is inevitable that unrest will break out next year, or sooner. It is important to understand that Sweden is a country with 9.5 million inhabitants. More than 50 per cent of the Swedish municipalities have no more than 20,000 inhabitants. During this year and the next, many of these Swedish cities will undergo radical and irreversible changes due to the migration waves.

When instability begins in Sweden, it will be important to remember that the figures that showed what a disaster Sweden was heading towards were there for all to see. Sweden, whose cities often have less than 20,000 people received more than 100,000 asylum seekers in one year, but it had no homes or jobs to offer these asylum seekers. There is every reason to be worried about Sweden now. Sweden is sailing against the perfect storm.