• Sweden edition
 

Rosengård: hardship and hope

Published: 23 Aug 2007 09:58 GMT+02:00
Updated: 23 Aug 2007 09:58 GMT+02:00

Dark silhouettes of teenagers standing against the backdrop of a blazing fire, while firefighters wait by their vehicles for police protection. For several days in April, it was images such as these that illustrated the disturbances in Rosengård, a sprawling immigrant-dominated housing estate in Malmö.

For many, the images were reminiscent of recent riots in the suburbs of Paris and the ghettos of nearby Denmark. But how far does the reality of Rosengård chime with the impression given - particularly outside Sweden - that the area is a centre of deprivation, segregation and unrest?

Arriving in Herrgården, the area within Rosengård at the centre of the disturbances, I expected to see the usual signs of a ghetto. But the yellow-brick-buildings built in the mid-1960’s, were not sub-standard housing. The sidewalks and surrounding grounds were well kept and the streets were clean.

I came across five teenage boys standing outside a convenience store. Asked what the situation was like three months after the disturbances, one answered promptly: “It’s got better here,” and the others nod in agreement. The area had become quieter over recent months, they said.

Many locals are frustrated at the way the problems of Rosengård have been portrayed in the media. The area's earlier reputation as a deprived district meant that disturbances such as those in April were blown out of proportion.

“If it’s Rosengård it’s big news,” sighs Andreas Konstantinides, a prominent Social Democratic politician in Rosengård. Similar incidents in other areas don't get the same attention, he argues.

Yet behind the neat exterior and despite the media exaggeration of the area's problems, nobody denies that so-called social exclusion in Rosengård is real and damaging.

Behind the catch-all term 'social exclusion' are the more concrete issues of segregation, unemployment and poor living conditions.

97 percent of people living in Herrgården are foreign-born or have two foreign-born parents. In Rosengård as a whole, the figure is 85 percent. Kosovans form the largest immigrant group, followed by Iraqis.

Jobs are thin on the ground: 15 percent of people between 20 and 64 were employed last year in Herrgården, while the figure was 37 percent for the whole of Rosengård.

Teenagers have been dealt much of the blame for this year's disturbances. In 2006, 42 percent of Herrgården residents and 30 percent of residents of Rosengård were under the age of 16, while in Malmö as a whole the figure was just 16 percent.

A 17-year-old Kosovo Albanian girl I spoke to had watched a garbage shed burning from her window. She confirmed that the culprits were teenagers, adding, “I know who they are. They wanted to show [the police] who controlled the area”.

That some young people feel a lack of control over their lives is perhaps unsurprising, given the living conditions many of them face in Herrgården. Overcrowding is perhaps the most acute aspect of this problem.

"Lots of people have come here in the last 5 years," says Konstantinides.

"They go to Rosengård, where they stay with relatives and friends. Thanks to this, there might be five to six people in a one-room apartment.”

Bad enough for adults, these conditions can be particularly hard on youngsters. Konstaninides argues that overcrowding forces children and young people out onto the streets:

"This is why children have nothing to do: there's no space," he says.

Jobs, though, remain the most pressing concern:

The official Swedish unemployment rate for people aged between 16 and 24 years is about 11 percent, but unemployment among youths born abroad is nearly double as high as it is among youths from Sweden.

Konstantinides is convinced of the importance of the issue:

“People in Rosengård need jobs,” he says.

Jobs are not only important for financial reasons, he argues, but also because children need to see their parents going to work. A reduction in the amount paid out in unemployment benefits might also allow more money to be spent on the city's public services, Konstantinides says.

Some steps are being made to improve the employment situation. A new project to find jobs in Denmark for people in Rosengård has led to the employment of 25 residents in the past two months. Konstantinides believes that many more can find employment in Denmark, due to that country’s great need for extra labour.

Programmes such as this have their work cut out, particularly when it comes to youth unemployment. Very few of the boys I spoke to had got summer jobs. One said he had applied but been turned down, another boy said in jest that he didn’t want a job. The rest mumbled that there simply were no jobs to apply for.

Getting a job will never be easy for some young people. As an 18-year old girl from Ghana pointed out, some of the local boys find it particularly tough to escape the stigma of a misspent youth. “Many of them have a police record," she claimed. Girls, she said, find it a easier.

Konstantinides argues that the extent of youth crime should not be exaggerated. There are 8,000 children in Rosengård, but only 50-65 are known by the police, he says.

Yet while the vast majority of young people in the area are well-behaved, the link between poor housing and unemployment on the one hand and crime on the other is inescapable.

Irene Malmberg, of the Ethnic Relations Division of the Department of Education in Malmö, says: "Conflict, aggression, hostility, a need to hit back, and a lack of solidarity, result when people are excluded from ordinary society. There is no reason to feel solidarity with a society that excludes you.”

Alleviating unemployment and overcrowding will therefore be crucial to rejuvenating the area and preventing a repeat of April's disturbances, campaigners argue.

Some projects are already making a difference. A programme to increase cooperation between schools, social services and the police is intended to help catch youngsters who risk getting into trouble.

Public schools in Rosengård offer after-school homework assistance, something that Konstantinides hopes will boost the performance of children living in crowded homes. He would also like to see more opportunities for youths to get involved in sports activities.

Local politicians and activists hope that projects like this, through giving young people faith in the future, will help ease some of the area's troubles. Irene Malmberg stresses the need to encourage optimism among the city's young:

“You can achieve what you want to do. You must dare to dream and to make it happen.”

Genevieve Worrell

Paul Rapacioli (paul.rapacioli@thelocal.com)

Today's headlines
National
Swedish town 'like Venice' after heavy rains
Photo: TT

Swedish town 'like Venice' after heavy rains

Torrential rains in western Sweden have left some towns submersed as water levels have risen to 1.5 metres above normal for the season with forecasts indicating that is worse to come. READ  

Ebola crisis
Sweden pledges new aid to UN Ebola fund
Photo: TT

Sweden pledges new aid to UN Ebola fund

Sweden has offered a new sizeable contribution to the fund set up by UN chief Ban K-moon to fight the Ebola outbreak. READ  

Society
'Dark forces' target refugee hunting scheme
Photo: Lars-Göran Thuresson/Älgriket

'Dark forces' target refugee hunting scheme

The Swedish hunting association runs a project to encourage young asylum-seekers to learn about hunting, a move which has proved controversial among some far right groups. READ  

Business & Money
American sales squeeze Ericsson profits
Ericsson CEO Hans Vestberg presents the third-quarter earnings report at the company's headquarters in Kista. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

American sales squeeze Ericsson profits

Swedish telecoms equipment maker Ericsson reported a decline in net profit in the third quarter despite an increase in sales, boosted by business in emerging markets. READ  

Interview
'Too many concerts feel the same'
Sofar hosts secret gigs in Swedish apartments. Photo: Sofar

'Too many concerts feel the same'

Kattis Bjork founded Stockholm's secret gig scene - Sofar - a year ago. The Local caught up with her as she prepared to celebrate the project's anniversary this weekend and revealed the concept will spread to other Swedish cities in 2015. READ  

Stockholm 'sub hunt'
Sweden calls off suspect submarine search
Ships are returning to shore in Sweden. Photo: TT

Sweden calls off suspect submarine search

The core search for a suspected foreign vessel in Swedish waters has been called off. The armed forces said they remained convinced foreign underwater activity had taken place but had not identified an intruder. READ  

Business & Money
US and Japan fuel surge for Volvo trucks
Ed Carbaugh prepares to install parts on a truck engine on an assembly line at Volvo Trucks' powertrain manufacturing facility in Hagerstown, Maryland, March 2014. Photo: Patrick Semansky/AP

US and Japan fuel surge for Volvo trucks

Sweden's Volvo, the world's second-largest maker of trucks, said Friday it saw a spike in profits in the third quarter, boosted by thriving sales in the US and Japanese markets. READ  

Inspectors attacked at rogue doc’s surgery
Cigarettes and beer photo: Shutterstock

Inspectors attacked at rogue doc’s surgery

Inspectors who were sent to shut down a doctor’s surgery in Gothenburg were physically attacked and fled the premises to get help from the police. READ  

Police turn Swede’s vodka into water
A Swede loads a car with alcohol in northern Germany. File photo: Drago Prvulovic/TT

Police turn Swede’s vodka into water

Swedish police say they will pay a man 16,000 kronor ($2,200) in damages after much of the alcohol they confiscated from him was stolen, while many of the bottles they returned were filled with water. READ  

Diplomacy
US to get first female ambassador in Sweden
File photo: Athena Center for Leadership Studies

US to get first female ambassador in Sweden

The United States Embassy in Stockholm is set to get its first female ambassador after the White House announced it was nominating the Iranian-American ex-investment banker Azita Raji to take over from Mark Brzezinski. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Lifestyle
What's On in Sweden: October 24th - 31st
Gallery
People-watching: October 22nd
Gallery
In Pictures: Prince Carl Philip and Sofia Hellqvist
Lifestyle
Eight things to love about renting a Swedish apartment
National
Vasa ship cannon blasted in Sweden
Blog updates

24 October

Editor’s blog, October 24th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hi readers, Get ready to read our weekly digest of Swedish news in less than 60 seconds. The..." READ »

 

24 October

Is darkness weather? (Blogweiser) »

"I try very hard not to talk about the weather. This has come after a decade..." READ »

 
 
 
National
Sub hunt: Day-by-day
National
Sub hunt: Stockholm islanders share their fears with The Local
Sponsored Article
The best options for oversea transfers
National
Get 20% off unique Swedish homeware
National
Dentist gives free care to Roma beggars
Business & Money
Get your own office in Gothenburg or Stockholm - free for a day
Gallery
Property of the week: Malmö
Gallery
PHOTOS: 'Foreign activity' in Swedish waters
Gallery
People-watching: October 19th
TT
Society
QUIZ: How good is your Swedish?
Lifestyle
What's on in Sweden: October 17th - 24th
Society
The nudity... and nine other things expat men notice in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 15th
Gallery
Your views: Should outdoor smoking be banned in Sweden?
Business & Money
Sweden has 'large hole' in finances
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Finding a job in Stockholm
Society
Monster salmon caught in northern Sweden
Gallery
Property of the week: Lorensberg
National
Scandinavia's child bride
National
Ebola crisis: How is Sweden preparing?
Business & Money
How Sweden is becoming a cashless society
Gallery
Stockholm Burlesque Festival 2014
National
How a little red horse became a symbol for Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 12th
Business & Money
The hottest start-ups from southern Sweden
National
What's on in Sweden: October 10th - 17th
National
Stockholm is 'best' region for well-being
Gallery
People-watching: October 8th
National
Five facts to know about Patrick Modiano
Society
My Swedish Career: A French fashionista in Sweden
Society
Swede's anti-bully Facebook tale goes viral
Society
Have you seen Sweden's viral subway cancer campaign?
National
Isis: Swedes linked to Turkish prisoner swap
National
Should Swedes be banned from buying sex abroad?
Gallery
Fredrik Reinfeldt's leaving presents
National
Five Swedish TV shows you shouldn't miss
Gallery
A tool belt, a casserole, and a book. Fredrik Reinfeldt's parliament gifts
TT
Lifestyle
Top five winter festivals in Sweden
TT
National
Sami reindeer herders win mine reprieve
Gallery
Property of the Week: Gamla Enskede
Sponsored Article
How to catch the first lobster of the year
Team SCA
Sponsored Article
All-female SCA team takes off on Volvo Ocean Race
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

977
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
http://psdmedia.se
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
AA-EUROPE.ORG/SWEDEN