• Sweden's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Stockholm's not burning

TT/The Local · 24 May 2013, 18:29

Published: 24 May 2013 18:29 GMT+02:00

Day five into the Stockholm riots and the world, as viewed from our Stockholm office, has gone crazy. The UK and the US have issued travel warnings for Stockholm. A reporter in the UK contacted me saying he was having trouble getting through to Sweden and wondered in desperation if the networks had all gone down.

My own mother contacted me from the other side of the world to tell me to keep safe. Other colleagues have reported similar phone calls from worried relatives as news of the unrest has reached their relatives around the globe. Some papers have even run stories headlined "Stockholm Burning".

But the truth is, it's not. In fact I've never felt safer in the capital. A lunchtime stroll around central Stockholm today showed absolutely no signs of danger, no smoke, no fire, and the only rioting kids I saw were fighting over a basketball.

Stockholm is not on fire. Let's get that clear immediately.

The truth is that there is really no comparison to, for example, the riots in England in 2011, where five people died, over 3,000 people were arrested, there was mass arson and looting, and almost 3,500 crimes were reported.

In Stockholm? Fifteen cars burned in the latest night of rioting, rocks thrown, the odd school or police station vandalized or burnt. The most emergency call-outs in a night sits at around 90. Witnesses estimated 100 vehicles were burnt on the first night, but that seems to have been the worst of it.

Another foreign reporter asked me if there has been looting as with the English riots, and there hasn't been, as far as I know. I heard one report of youths stealing a few cans of soft drink from a pizzeria, but that was the extent of it.

That same pizzeria owner told me that he wasn't even angry about it all, rather that he was irritated his usual customers haven't returned while the windows stayed broken.

"What's happened has happened, I can't be angry about it, what's the point?" he said.

Headlines around the world pointed to the growing gap between the rich and the poor as the catalyst for the unrest, suggesting Sweden's usually pristine image has been shot.

Sure, the OECD ranking from earlier this month saw Sweden plummet from first place in 1995 to 14th in 2010. Of course it's tempting to view the riots through the prism of this fact, fresh as it is in people's minds.

But that would be jumping the gun. For one thing, there are plenty of statistics that show that Sweden remains a pretty equal society. Take the Gini coefficient, a widely used measure of inequality. Sweden's Gini coefficient is 0.24 (A figure of 0 denotes a perfectly equal society). The rich-world average is 0.31. Sweden may have become more unequal than it was, but it started out from a very low base.

But even if we accept that Sweden has become a less equal society, is that really the motivation for teenage kids to burn cars? Are 13-year-olds burning cars because the country's affluent citizens are getting richer? I don't know, in fact at this stage no one does.

As Leonard Cohen sang, "The poor stay poor, the rich get rich - that's how it goes, and everybody knows."

Absolute poverty is not an issue in these areas, nor is homelessness. Rather, many people are living on benefits, receiving enough to survive, but far from enough to thrive. Could this be causing a sense of alienation that is fuelling the fires? Perhaps.

As of Friday afternoon, no ringleader has come forward, lending further credence to the idea that the trouble-causers are just a bunch of unorganized kids who have nothing better to do. As neighbouring suburbs of Husby get in on the act, it becomes a case of "If Husby can do this, we can too."

One of the Husby residents we spoke to on the scene, a native Iranian, put it all down to bad parenting.

"The transition to life in Sweden is hardest for those who come to Sweden as young children," she said.

"They don't know what they are supposed to do, how they are supposed to act. They were raised differently in their home countries, where things are tougher. Here things are more lax. Too lax," she added.

"Parents need to be extra strong and get support from public authorities. They need to help each other. Parents. Schools. Authorities. They need to be on the same page. Kids need to be taught what's right and wrong."

She added that families failed to integrate because they get stuck in a vicious cycle of staying home and getting enough benefits to last until the next month.

Integration Minister Erik Ullenhag is another unimpressed voice when it comes to the international attention on Stockholm.

"I've seen in the international media that this is a riot between young people in some parts of Stockholm and the society, but this is not true," he told me on Thursday.

Story continues below…

"It's a small proportion. The majority of young people in Tensta, Husby, Rinkeby, they go to schools and they want to have opportunities in Sweden, and it's important to tell that story."

He added that the unrest is unfortunately overshadowing all the good things that happen in these areas.

Out in Husby, the area in the outskirts of Stockholm where it all kicked off, the scene during the day is as calm as the residents themselves.

Yes, cars have been burnt. Yes, youths have been throwing rocks at firefighters. But the city of Stockholm hasn't lost control. Each night, the police have calmed the situation after a number of hours. There have been remarkably few injuries and not many arrests.

Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said this week that the focus was on stopping the fires, the violence, and the rioting, and then solutions could be addressed.

It's hard to say exactly why the cars are burning, but they are. Stockholm, on the other hand, is most definitely not.

Oliver Gee

Follow Oliver on Twitter here

TT/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Brexit vote
Sweden wants UK to move quickly towards exit
Prime Minister Stefan Löfven after Monday's meeting. Photo: Johanna Johansson/TT

"We can’t have the EU in limbo for too long," said the Prime Minister.

Brexit vote
UK can't cherry-pick EU rules, says Sweden
Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson following the meeting on Monday. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson commented on the consequences of Brexit after a meeting with Swedish businesses on Monday.

Why this Swedish canal was filled with dead rats
Removing dead rats from a canal: not the easiest summer job. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Over 140 dead rats were removed from Malmö's canals on Monday.

Is this Swede the new Vincent van Gogh?
Ivar Arpi (left). Photo: Tomlin Studio

He's winning a worldwide competition to find the person who most resembles the Dutch master.

Brexit vote
Swedish stock market plummets in Brexit aftermath
The Stockholm Stock Exchange felt the full force of Brexit on Monday morning. Photo: Tomas Oneborg/SvD/TT

Monday is the first day of trading in Sweden since Britain voted to leave the European Union, and negative effects are already being felt, with stocks down by almost five percent at lunchtime.

Brexit: Sweden’s leaders meet for talks about 'our friend'
Ebba Busch Thor outside the PM's office before Monday morning's talks. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

“The UK is our friend and we have to respect the decision.”

Brexit vote
Poll: Sweden still wants to stay in EU after Brexit vote
Most Swedes polled don't want a referendum on EU membership. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

A post-Brexit poll shows that the majority of Swedes would still vote to stay in the EU.

My Swedish Career
'I was only supposed to stay in Sweden for a few months'
Dan Paech, the founder of Run With Me Stockholm. Photo: Private

Meet Dan Paech, 31, the Australian who found his entrepreneurial path in Stockholm.

Sweden murder probe after refugee centre death
One person had been detained and other potential witnesses were being questioned. Photo: TT

Swedish police on Sunday launched a murder investigation after a young woman was found dead at a shelter housing asylum-seekers.

Sweden trials electrified highway for trucks
The truck draws power as it moves at speeds of up to 90km/h (56mph) while putting out no emissions. Photo: Scania AB

The Swedish truck firm Scania, in partnership with German engineering company, Siemens, is developing the world’s first “eHighway”, a four kilometre stretch of highway north of Stockholm.

Sponsored Article
5 reasons you should try dating with The Inner Circle
International
'A morning of sorrow': Sweden reacts to Brexit vote
Sponsored Article
How to find student housing in Malmö: 5 tips
International
Sweden opposition cools talk of 'Swexit' poll
International
'Devastated' - Brits in Sweden shocked by Brexit vote
Blog updates

17 June

Queen’s Birthday Stockholm 2016: 9th June. 90th Birthday. 900 Guests! (The Diplomatic Dispatch) »

"What do you do when you read that the Queen’s 90th Birthday in London will be…" READ »

 

10 June

i lördags, på lördag – time phrases for present, past and future (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hejsan! Swedish time phrases can be difficult to master. It takes a lot of practice to…" READ »

 
 
 
Sponsored Article
Stockholm school celebrates Nepal Project success
Gallery
People-watching: June 22nd
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Private
The Local Voices
'Swedes don't treat me differently because I wear a hijab'
Culture
How do Swedes celebrate Midsummer?
Culture
Coming soon: Sweden’s smelly fermented fish
Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
National
Assange lawyer: Sweden should recognize UN opinion
Private
The Local Voices
Why is this Syrian dentist who hugs like a Swede worried about undies?
Swedish nationalist 'shot and ate' lion and giraffe
Sponsored Article
Education abroad: How to find an international school
Analysis & Opinion
'Sweden's residency revamp is harmful and inhumane'
Sponsored Article
The man behind Sweden's biggest music festival
Photo: The Local
The Local Voices
UNHCR boss: 'It's hard to start your life without your family'
Politics
VIDEO: Brits in Europe say why UK should stay
Sponsored Article
US expats: Have you met your tax deadlines?
Photo: Marko Risović
The Local Voices
World Refugee Day: Searching for safety in Europe - in pictures
Sponsored Article
Malmö: Home to the best food in Sweden?
National
Is Swedish nationalists’ foreign food ban bananas?
Sponsored Article
VIDEO: Why Malmö is the world's 6th best city for biking
Gallery
Property of the week: Söråker
Sponsored Article
5 reasons you should try dating with The Inner Circle
International
Poll shows huge support for EU in Sweden
The Local Voices
How a Syrian scuba diver mobilized Sweden's biggest asylum centre
Sponsored Article
6 simple travel hacks that will make your life easier
Sport
Zlatan: 'If we'd been fighting for real, he'd be in hospital'
The Local Voices
Orlando reflections: Is it possible to be gay and Muslim?
Sweden to go ahead with migrant age tests
Gallery
People-watching: June 17th-19th
National
Will you be hit by changes to Sweden's residency laws?
3,307
jobs available
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:
psdmedia.se