• Sweden's news in English

Libyan evacuation a 'priority' for Sweden

Peter Vinthagen Simpson · 25 Feb 2011, 13:44

Published: 25 Feb 2011 13:44 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Writing on his blog as he prepared to embark on a trip to the Middle East for talks with Arab and Jewish leaders, Carl Bildt described the situation in Libya as "terrible", and rejected criticism from some Swedish commentators for not take a tougher stance against the embattled Libyan leader, Muammar Qaddafi.

"The highest priority is to get the Swedish and EU citizens out of the country - at the same time as we try to put a stop to the violence against innocent people," Bildt wrote.

Amid speculation about possible sanctions and NATO military intervention as the Qaddafi regime becomes increasing desperate in its methods, Bildt was reticent on details.

"As long as we have our citizens there there are unfortunately also limits to other measures we can discuss. Openly anyway."

The Swedish foreign ministry on Friday morning announced that Swedes in Libya, reported to be around 50 in number, should make their way to the airport in order claim seats on an Alitalia plane waiting to leave.

"This information remains up to date, the plane remains at the airport and Swedes are encouraged to make their way there," said Sara Brandt-Hansen at the foreign ministry to The Local on Friday afternoon.

The foreign ministry advises all those who make it out to the airport to remain at the collection point and not return to Tripoli whether they manage to secure a seat on the flight or not.

"We are coordinating evacuation efforts across the EU - as soon as there is a flight, we are working to get Swedish nationals on it," Brandt-Hansen said.

As the turmoil continues in Libya with Qaddafi's forces clashing with opposition groups at several locations across the country, there are mounting fears in some quarters of the EU that a full-scale civil war will result in a large number of refugees arriving on European shores.

Sweden's migration minister Tobias Billström yesterday rejected demands from Italy for help to accept refugees from north Africa, arguing that the Italian government was exaggerating when it spoke of a human wave of "biblical proportions".

"Italy has accepted 5,000 refugees. But Sweden accepted 32,000 asylum-seekers last year in relation to a population of 9 million people. Italy has 58 million inhabitants," Billström said in Brussels on Thursday.

"I think Italy can cope with 5,000," he said.

Billström called for continued EU cooperation on the issue, but argued that the talk of "waves" and "biblical proportions" needed to be given greater nuance.

Story continues below…

"To help people in trouble at sea is of course completely self-evident, but I don't envision any great migration of people from these countries," he said.

The European Commission has dismissed reports in European media that around 750,000 people from across northern and central Africa are lined up along the Libyan coast waiting to flee.

The UN refugee organ UNHCR has said that the figure is more likely to be closer to 5,000.

Peter Vinthagen Simpson (news@thelocal.se)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

15:08 February 25, 2011 by big5
This is just hilarious. A few days ago Cameron apologized for the British evacuation having been so slow. And today Sweden is getting around to deciding to prioritize evacuation. It's like the tsunami all over again. What the f*ck was it we paid the world's highest taxes for again?...
15:47 February 25, 2011 by RobinHood
Other priorities anounced by the Swedish government this week were an evacuation of Swedes caught up in Hurricane Katrina, and an offer of Swedish assistance in the rescue of 33 trapped Chilian miners.

In other news, Swedish rescue teams left today for Haiti to assist in the work there rescuing survivors of the earthquake. "We really look forward to making a significant contribution to the rescue efforts, they really need us over there" said Sven Axelsson, team leader.
15:54 February 25, 2011 by big5
China has a warship off the coast of Libya to assist a whole fleet of other boats with the evacuation of its citizens. Meanwhile in Sweden...
15:58 February 25, 2011 by Kevin Harris
Would Mr Bildt also pop over to coordinates 41o43'57" N, 49o56'49 W where several of his citizens have called for Swedish government assistance while cruising on the SS Titanic.
16:06 February 25, 2011 by big5
Sorry but the rescue teams have a three-month queue and are burnt out from the backlog of paperwork. Also, the study of gendered refugeeship isn't finished yet - the latest report determined that more research is needed. Since we don't know if "women and children to the lifeboats first" is a kvinnofälla (a trap for women) it's better to let everyone drown equally.
18:54 February 25, 2011 by Swedesmith
Once the rescue teams have wrapped up scouring the Baltic for suvivors of the Vasa ship diaster, they will make their way with great expediency to Libya.
00:23 February 26, 2011 by hogar2010
Billström forgot a little detail: Italy had to face and help 5000 refugees, in two/three days.

Could you image if Sweden had to face 5000 refugees in a couple of days?! lol...

32000 immigrants per year are an average of 87 per day, not 5000 (neither 2000 nor 1000, only 0087).
05:21 February 26, 2011 by UScitizen
@ Robinhood

That has to be the best post of the week!

"To help people in trouble at sea is of course completely self-evident, but I don't envision any great migration of people from these countries,"

There shouldn't be. The reason for all these uprisings is to bring about change in these countries and make them better places for the citizens to live. With all these dictators overthrown, there's no reason for people to leave.

According to an earlier story about the Swedish population, the largest number of immigrants last year was Swedish nationals returning. With these dictators overthrown, there's no reason for refugees to come to Sweden or any other EU country permanantly.

Once things settle down, Sweden should start a systematic forced return of all those who sought and received refugee status. I've got nothing against immigrants, I'm one here myself but not as a refugee or asylum seeker. I had to jump through hoops ans prove that I could support myself financially befor I was granted permanent residence.

So, they all want to demonstrate here and demand change back home. When the dust has settled, they all need to go back and work to make that change happen.
07:13 February 26, 2011 by loudasthunder
I sure hope Bildt is serious about not accepting those refugees, since Italy can take their fair share. It's about time the Swedish government finally gets some balls and says "No" more often to refusing refgees. Hopefully, they will also crack down on the ones here already and send more back : )
11:30 February 26, 2011 by johnny1939
This will all pass & next week we will see another disaster.

The handwriting was on the wall a long before it became an emergency. People had plenty of time to make arrangements to leave. I think Sweden only have the obligation to get embassy personnel out other people are better off on their own. I would hate to rely on any government to help me out in a situation like this. One should really be prepared for all eventualities when one lives and works in unstable countries . I compare it w/ having several ways of escape in case of fire in your house. Just a thought.
00:13 February 27, 2011 by Njal
@ U Scitizen

Completely agree with what you said, but as that is the sensible thing to do (i.e. repatriation), that is exactly what will not happen unfortunately.
11:44 February 27, 2011 by johnny1939
@UScitizen I also agree so that their stay in Sweden should only be on a temporary basis and the situation should be reevaluated every year or so.
Today's headlines
Facebook 'sorry' for removing Swedish cancer video
A computer displaying Facebook's landing page. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

The social media giant had censored a video explaining how women should check for suspicious lumps in their breasts.

Watch this amazing footage of Sweden’s landscapes
A still from the aerial footage of Sweden. Photo: Nate Summer-Cook

The spectacular drone footage captures both Sweden's south and the opposite extreme, thousands of kilometres north.

Sweden could be allowed to keep border controls: EU
Police ID checks at Hyllie station in southern Sweden. Photo: Stig-Åke Jönsson/TT

Sweden could be allowed to keep ID controls on its border with Denmark beyond the current end date of November, following discussions among EU leaders in Brussels last night.

Why women in Sweden will work for free by November
File photo of a woman working in a Swedish office. Photo: Anders Willund/TT

A new study into the gender pay gap suggests Sweden still has some work to do.

Look familiar? Meet your jawbone's ancestor
Thank God for evolution, eh?

There's something fishy about the human jawbone – it has its origins in the placodermi, a jowly species of fish that lived 400 million years ago, Swedish and Chinese researchers say.

Isis claims unremarked arson attack in Malmö
The arson attack took place on Norra Grängesbergsgatan in Malmö. File photo: Emil Langvad/TT

An arson attack in Malmö that caused only minor damage and was barely reported in the media has been claimed by terror group Isis.

How to make autumnal Swedish apple cake
Photo: SwedishFood.com

This tasty cake is an autumn staple in Swedish cafés. Why not make it yourself!

Facebook slammed for cutting Swedish breast cancer video
File photo of the landing page of the Swedish version of Facebook. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

The social media giant removed a breast cancer awareness video because it deemed the images "offensive," according to the Swedish Cancer Society.

Pastor rapped for depicting rival as Nazi in church play
A different pastor. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

The pastor allegedly found it funny.

In Pictures: Look inside this perfect Swedish island home
This modern Gotland home was designed and built by two Swedes. Photo: United Frog Studios/AB

Anna-Lena and Johan designed and built their home with tall beautiful windows, a smart heating system, and a separate section for their greyhounds.

Sponsored Article
This is Malmö: Football capital of Sweden
Analysis & Opinion
Are we just going to let half the country die?
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
Angry elk chases Swede up a lamp post
The Local Voices
'Alienation in Sweden feels better: I find myself a stranger among scores of aliens'
Blog updates

6 October

10 useful hjälpverb (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! I think the so-called “hjalpverb” (auxiliary verbs in English) are a good way to get…" READ »


8 July

Editor’s blog, July 8th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hej readers, It has, as always, been a bizarre, serious and hilarious week in Sweden. You…" READ »

Sponsored Article
7 reasons you should join Sweden's 'a-kassa'
People-watching: October 20th
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
The Local Voices
A layover at Qatar airport brought this Swedish-Kenyan couple together - now they're heading for marriage
Swede punches clown that scared his grandmother
Fans throw flares and enter pitch in Swedish football riot
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Could Swedish blood test solve 'Making a Murderer'?
Sponsored Article
Swedish for programmers: 'It changed my life'
Property of the week: Linnéstaden, Gothenburg
Swedish school to build gender neutral changing room
Sponsored Article
Top 7 tips to help you learn Swedish
People-watching: October 14th-16th
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Man in Sweden assaulted by clowns with broken bottle
Nobel Prize 2016: Literature
Sponsored Article
'There was no future for me in Turkey'
Watch the man who discovered Bob Dylan react to his Nobel Prize win
Sponsored Article
‘Extremism can't be defeated on the battlefield alone’
Record numbers emigrating from Sweden
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
People-watching: October 12th
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
The Local Voices
'Swedish startups should embrace newcomers' talents - there's nothing to fear'
Sponsored Article
'There was no future for me in Turkey'
How far right are the Sweden Democrats?
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
Property of the week: Triangeln, Malmö
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Sweden unveils Europe's first elk hut
People-watching: October 7th-9th
The Local Voices
Syria's White Helmets: The Nobel Peace Prize would have meant a lot, but pulling a child from rubble is the greatest reward
Missing rune stone turns up in Sweden
Nobel Prize 2016: Chemistry
People-watching: October 5th
Must-watch: Incredible time-lapse video of Northern Lights in Sweden
The Local Voices
Why this Russian developer is committed to helping refugees - with tech
jobs available