Foreign trust

There are two kinds of foreigners in Sweden. There is the kind that grumbles about taxes, light deprivation and System Bolaget's opening hours. And then there is the rest.

Friday’s Göteborgs Posten reported that immigrants to Sweden do not trust the people around them. One of the major reasons for this was the high unemployment level among newcomers, which makes them feel marginalized in society, according to a professor at the SOM Institute at Gothenburg University.

The paper reported that trust between a country’s inhabitants is considered an important factor for building democracy and stable institutions. Swedish citizens have a much higher degree of trust in others than non-Swedish citizens living in Sweden. But, the paper said, “those differences disappear if you only consider those immigrants who have a job.” In other words, getting into the world of work can make Sweden look a damn sight rosier.

Perhaps immigrants might start to feel more at home if they were better represented in Swedish institutions. That was the conclusion drawn by Göteborgs Posten after a survey of county administrative boards in Sweden revealed that only six out of 233 board members in the whole of Sweden are of foreign origin.

The county administrative boards represent the Swedish state at regional level, and their members are appointed by the central government in Stockholm. Fifteen of Sweden’s 21 counties, including Stockholm, Västra Götaland and Skåne, have no ethnic minority board members.

The minister responsible, Lars-Erik Lövdén, professed himself shocked. “I knew that immigrant representation was low, but I didn’t know quite how bad the situation was,” he told GP.

For one immigrant to Sweden, exclusion from society meant much more than a lack of representation in local government. The twenty-three year old Indonesian woman was held and abused by a Middle-Eastern diplomat and his family, Saturday’s DN reported. “She was used as a slave,” Västerort police spokesman Bengt Kihlberg told the paper. “The family bought her to work for them,” he said, adding that the woman was claiming to have been subjected to regular beatings.

By Monday, however, the police were toning down their allegations, telling DN that the woman had not been imprisoned and had been working legally. A source told the paper that the police were unable to question the family because they had diplomatic immunity.

Another immigrant to Sweden who had suffered at the hands of an employer suffered the added distress of being deported back to Thailand, far away from her Swedish partner. Salee Chaladtanyakji was held prisoner by her employer in a cellar in Kungsbacka, near Gothenburg, reported Expressen. She was paid only 1,000 crowns a month for working fourteen-hour days, seven days a week.

Now Salee and boyfriend Bengt are working on getting Swedish residence permits for her and her two daughters.