Politician quits over refugee threats

A politician in southern Sweden is leaving his post on a local council after receiving numerous threats for suggesting that the municipality accept three unaccompanied child refugees.

“Of course you can criticize Swedish integration policy, as I myself have done. But to be threatened for wanting the municipality to accept three unaccompanied refugee children is totally absurd,” Anders Alkewall told the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper.

Last spring Alkewall, who represents the Christian Democratic party on Vellinge’s local council, proposed that the municipality accept three refugee children who had arrived alone in Sweden.

But instead of being praised for his gesture, Alkewall instead began receiving hate mail.

“It started with a few emails. Then I got a letter with pictures from fires in Rosengård, with the insinuation that I wanted to transform Vellinge into a new Rosengård,” he said, referring to the largely immigrant-populated district in Malmö which has been a flashpoint for heightened racial tensions in recent years.

In April 2007, Rosengård was the scene of a string of violent incidents, including several acts of arson and altercations with police.

Another letter Alkewall received read, “In states with law and order they get rid of people like you.”

Alkewall calls Vellinge a pleasant place to live, but said there is “something strange” about the community’s attitudes toward refugee issues.

“It more or less can’t be discussed. The Moderates have a majority on the local council and I think that depends to a great deal on them flatly saying no to accepting refugees,” he said.

According to Alkewall, local attitudes toward refugee policy are so strong that in the 2006 elections 2,000 people voted for Moderates in local races, only to then turn around and vote for the opposition Social Democrats for spots in the Riksdag.

In addition to threatening letters, Alkewall has also had his cars vandalized and been forced to get unlisted telephone numbers.

According to DN, the Moderates have more support in Vellinge than in any other municipality in Sweden, which prompted the paper to ask party leader and prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt for his thoughts on the matter during a visit to nearby Malmö on Monday.

“I’m not involved in this case. But everyone who at any level wants to have a discussion about immigration gets email and phone calls from people who have extreme anti-immigrant views. There is a lot of that in Sweden,” Reinfeldt told DN.

“[Some] people don’t see the advantages of expanding the workforce in Sweden. There’s a fear of that which is different.”

Nevertheless, Reinfeldt denied that Moderate Party sympathizers in Vellinge were responsible for harassing Alkewall.