“I thought that Vännäs was the perfect place for us. And there are many, many friendly people here. But we still don’t dare to stay; I’m seriously concerned about my children’s safety,” said father of five Ismail Ramadan to the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper.
Ramadan’s family and several others have decided to abandon plans of starting a life in the small community outside of Umeå less than two weeks after a group of 30 to 50 young people assembled outside the apartment building in which the refugees lived and began shouting threats and throwing stones.
The May 9th incident resulted in several broken windows and many frightened refugees.
“I can’t even describe to you how horrible it was. ‘Now it’s over, here they come!’ I thought,” Ramadan told SvD.
“We all cried and screamed. We spent the whole night lying in the hall and held each other tightly.”
The weekend of harassment prompted municipality refugee coordinator Ingrid Lindroth to evacuate the refugees to safety.
“I made the decision after speaking with a number of refugees who were extremely scared – simply terrified. It was an easy decision,” she told SvD.
But the move was criticized by police, who characterized the decision to evacuate around 40 refugees as “significantly more drastic” than necessary, adding that it complicated the police’s investigation into the incident.
“We don’t believe this is a racially motivated dispute, but rather a disagreement between a number of young people, some of whom live in the refugee building and others from the area,” said local police commander Uno Nilsson to SvD the at the time of the incident.
According to the Västerbotten-Kuriren newspaper, the dispute began when a group of local youths confronted a refugee boy about the assault of a local girl which took place Tuesday night.
The initial school yard confrontation, during which the refugee boy was pressed for information rather than accused of involvement in the assault, but was also allegedly pushed to the ground, escalated during the course of the week through subsequent run ins, culminating in the weekend’s disturbances.
The day following the attacks, several hundred Vännäs residents gathered to demonstrate in support of the refugees and to denounce what they perceived to be racially motivated attacks.
While the families were welcomed back to Vännäs with flowers after the evacuation, about 30 out of the roughly 70 refugees have ultimately decided to move out of the community of 4,000 residents, much to the dismay of local politicians.
“It’s not confirmed that they will leave yet, but if they do, it is obviously a failure on our part. No one should need to leave Vännäs because they are afraid or worried,” municipal council member Johan Söderling told the newspaper.
Police are also still investigating the matter in hopes of clarifying exactly what took place and who or what may have lay behind the attack.
Prosecutor Lotta Sundström expected it would take at least several more days for her office to make sense of the more than 20 different complaints which have been submitted.
“No one has yet been informed that they are suspected of a crime,” she said to SvD.