Sending Mixed Messages in Sweden

Inviting immigrants with one hand, expelling them with the other.

Even before the so-called refugee crisis began in 2015, immigrants formed a larger percentage of Sweden’s population than of any other country in Europe. During this current wave, Sweden, with under ten million inhabitants, has taken in hundreds of thousands more. Though most of them claim to be in need of asylum, the majority actually aren’t. Many claim to be children, but they look as if they’re twenties or even older. 

Sweden has been an easy touch for a generation or more, but the Swedes have never looked more like a bunch of self-destructive suckers than they do now. 

At the same time, a growing number of these formerly docile folks are finding their voices. They’re openly expressing support for the non-establishment Sweden Democrat Party, which demands severe limits on immigration. Even the mainstream Moderates, who can feel the Sweden Democrats breathing down their necks, are now talking about imposing serious restrictions. At a conference weekend before last, the Moderates actually voted to challenge the current EU system, whereby asylum seekers are admitted into the superstate before their applications are approved. The Moderates would rather set up “safe places” outside the EU where those asylum seekers can cool their heels while those applications are reviewed. Finally! 

And that’s not all. Today Sweden takes in heaven knows how many people from the Muslim world – some as refugees, others through “family reunification” – and hands them permanent residency right off, permitting them to go straight onto the welfare rolls and stay there for a lifetime. The Moderates now want to issue temporary residency to these people, who would only be awarded permanent status – and, eventually, citizenship – after proving their ability to support themselves and their families. In addition, the Moderates have proposed several other reforms, such as language tests and limits on social-service disbursements per household. Again: finally!

A bit more good news: already, of the hundreds of thousands of self-styled asylum seekers who’ve come to Sweden since 2015, over sixty thousand have seen their asylum applications rejected – and about half of that sixty thousand have already left the country voluntarily. But what about the other half? The numbers are so overwhelming that the chief of the border police, Patrick Engström, confessed the other day that he has neither the resources nor the legal authority to carry out all the necessary deportations. 

Part of the problem is that many of these rejected asylum seekers are nowhere to be found. Where are they? They’ve likely disappeared into Sweden’s sprawling urban Muslim enclaves and are being sheltered by relatives or other coreligionists. Many gave fake names when they entered the country in the first place (a common practice) and are now presumably living under their real names or other fake ones. Doubtless many of them are already raking in welfare benefits. 

OK, you say, but at least there’s a degree of reform. True – but not everybody working for the Swedish government, alas, has gotten the memo. Even as the country’s citizens are calling for limits on immigration – especially from the Muslim world – its embassies in Arab capitals have done something that seems borderline nuts: namely, they’ve packed their websites with material designed to encourage Arab immigration to Sweden. In delectable detail, they explain to residents of Arab countries how much money may well be poured into their pockets if they pack up their tents and head north. (For example, the website of the embassy in Amman explains to potential migrants that if they move to Sweden they’ll get “free school,” “free health care,” even “free public transport” if they’re pushing a baby carriage. If they have, say, six kids, they’ll get $1285 a month, free and clear.)  

Nobody in the Swedish government, apparently, thought there was anything odd about these counterproductive come-ons until P. M. Nilsson, political editor of Dagens Industri (Sweden’s answer to the Wall Street Journal), furrowed his brow. The embassy sites, he pointed out, were telling prospective immigrants a lot about the rights they’d have in Sweden, but nothing about their responsibilities. 

While the embassies were supposedly encouraging Arabs to come to Sweden to work, they were focusing on the freebies immigrants could collect – up to $4000 a month, tax-free – without lifting a finger. They were making it clear that Arabs could hop on a plane to Stockholm and spend their remaining years living like royalty – without ever bothering to learn the language, to get an education, or (heaven forfend!) to find a job. Indeed, the embassy sites did an absolutely terrific job of making Sweden look like a great place not to work at all. 

The lesson apparently being that even when Sweden thinks it’s trying to lure productive people to its shores, it can’t help waving bags of cash in their faces. 

That’s not the only new government policy that’s entirely at odds with the Swedish people’s eagerness for immigration reform. Last week, SVT reported that under new guidelines established by Stockholm’s City Council, children who are in the country illegally are eligible for financial assistance. Which means that some of those people whom Patrick Engström, head of the border police, is charged with deporting but is having trouble rounding up can register to collect regular welfare payments. 

To sum up: some ordinary citizens of Sweden are desperately trying to steer the ship of state away from the shoals. But all too many government functionaries in that cuckoo country just can’t shake off the habit of dispersing dough. One gets the impression that in the minds of some of these folks, the Swedish nation is defined by nothing more or less than its status as a generous-to-a-fault welfare state. To pull back on the largess, one gathers, would plunge them into a full-blown identity crisis. 

Who am I, if I’m not constantly forking over cash to foreigners? Who cares if they’re technically eligible or not? The less eligible they are, in fact, the more virtuous that makes me for shelling out all those kronor. I subsidize, therefore I am. That mentality is one thing that needs to be quashed if Sweden is to stand any chance of saving itself.