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IMMIGRATION

Net rumours lead to anti-refugee egg attack

A group of right-wing extremists demonstrated outside a housing facility for unaccompanied refugee children near Stockholm after internet rumours about a suspected sexual assault spiraled out of control.

Police have launched a preliminary investigation into a suspected case of agitation against ethnic groups (hets mot folkgrupp) after a group of right-wing activists screamed racial slurs and threw eggs at the refugee housing facility in Solna, north of Stockholm.

“Outside the refugee facility they screamed ‘blackheads’ [svartskallar] and ‘go home immigrants’ and other things,” police spokesperson Diana Sundin told the magasine Expo, which tracks right-wing extremism.

Police spokesperson Marie-Louise Nilsson from Stockholm’s western district, while refusing to confirm who was behind the action, confirmed for the TT news agency that around 30 people, primarily men, arrived at the facility in their cars.

They were carrying signs and threw eggs at the building, in addition to screaming racial slurs, but left the scene once police arrived.

The attack on the refugee housing facility, which took place on Saturday, comes following accusations that residents at the facility had sexually molested girls at a nearby public pool.

A week prior to the incident, 18 teenage boys and 2 staff members from the facility visited the Husbybadet public pool.

During the visit, five to seven of the boys allegedly molested three young girls, aged 11 and 12 years old, the Aftonbladet newspaper reported.

“They were touched on the back, legs, and behind. No clothes were removed,” police spokesperson Diana Sundin told the newspaper, adding that the boys were quickly separated from the girls when the incident took place.

The boys were subsequently reported to police on suspicions of sexual molestation.

In the days following the incident, however, the boys’ alleged crimes became wildly exaggerated on a number of internet discussion forums.

Blogs and chat sites described a “gang rape of an 11-year-old girl, carried out by 20 men”, a description which police emphatically reject.

“The whole thing has been blown way out of proportion. No one was raped. No one has said anything like that during interviews or in the report, but such rumours have started to spread on the internet,” the police’s Mats Eriksson told Aftonbladet.

According to Expo, the action was carried out by white-power activists from the Nordisk Ungdom (‘Nordic Youth’).

On the group’s website are film clips and photos taken at what the Nordisk Ungdom call a “Protest action against rapists”.

“This is to protest against the anti-Swedish and reckless sexual assault carried out by so called refugee children at the Husbybadet in Stockholm last Sunday against a 11-year-old Swedish girls,” writes the group.

Now police fear the activists are planning new attacks against the facility.

“The whole thing has gone way out of proportion. Now there are rumours they plan to take another run at the facility,” the police’s Nilsson told the TT news agency.

As a result, police have increased surveillance around the facility. Johanna Hållén a spokesperson with facility operator Attendo Care, said the incident has affected the refugee children living there.

“Clearly they think it’s unpleasant,” she told Expo.

So far no one has been informed that they are suspected of any crime following Saturday’s egg attack on the facility and police continue to investigate the matter.

SWEDISH CITIZENSHIP

‘The idea is to convert permanent residency into Swedish citizenship,’ Migration minister says

Sweden's Migration Minister has responded to criticism of the government's proposal to abolish permanent residency, telling an interviewer that the hope is that holders will gain full citizenship rather than get downgraded to temporary status.

'The idea is to convert permanent residency into Swedish citizenship,' Migration minister says

“The main idea behind the [Tidö] agreement is that we should convert permanent residency to citizenship,” Maria Malmer Stenergard, from the right-wing Moderate Party, told the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper.”You should not be here forever on a permanent residence permit. A clear path to citizenship is needed.”

I envision that you will receive individual plans for how to achieve this,” she continued. “Learn the language, earn a living, and have knowledge of Swedish society, so that you can fully become a Swedish citizen.” 

Malmer Stenergard said it was still unclear whether a planned government inquiry into the possibility of “converting…existing permanent residence permits” would also open the way for those who have been given a permanent right to live in the country to be downgraded to a temporary residency permit. 

“We’ll have to look at that,” she said. “There is a problem with positive administrative decisions and changing them, which the Migration Agency’s director general Mikael Ribbenvik has been aware of. We also state in the Tidö Agreement that basic principles of administrative law shall continue to apply.” 

READ ALSO: What do we know about Sweden’s plans to withdraw permanent residency?

In the Tidö Agreement, the deal between the far-right Sweden Democrats and the three government parties, it says that “asylum-related residence permits should be temporary and the institution of permanent residence permits should be phased out to be replaced by a new system based on the immigrant’s protection status”.

It further states that “an inquiry will look into the circumstances under which existing permanent residence permits can be converted, for example through giving affected permit holders realistic possibilities to gain citizenship before a specified deadline. These changes should occur within the framework of basic legal principles.”

Malmer Stenergard stressed that the government would only retroactively reverse an administrative decision (over residency) if a way can be found to make such a move compatible with such principles. 

“This is why we state in the Tidö Agreement that basic principles of administrative law must apply,” she said. 

She said the government had not yet come to a conclusion on what should happen to those with permanent residency who either cannot or are unwilling to become Swedish citizens. 

“We’re not there yet, but of course we’re not going to be satisfied with people just having an existing permanent residency, which in many cases has been granted without any particularly clear demands, if they don’t then take the further steps required for citizenship.” 

This did not mean, however, that those with permanent residency permits should be worried, she stressed. 

“If your ambition is to take yourself into Swedish society, learn the language, become self-supporting, and live according to our norms and values, I think that there’s a very good chance that you will be awarded citizenship.” 

She said that even if people couldn’t meet the requirements for citizenship, everyone with permanent residency should at least have “an individual plan for how they are going to become citizens”, if they want to stay in Sweden. 

When it comes to other asylum seekers, however, she said that the government’s aim was for residencies to be recalled more often. 

“We want to find a way to let the Migration Agency regularly reassess whether the grounds for residency remain. The aim is that more residencies should be recalled, for example, if a person who is invoking a need of asylum or other protection then goes back to their home country for a holiday.” 

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