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Billström sparks 'blonde, blue-eyed' outrage

18 Mar 2013, 13:16

Published: 18 Mar 2013 13:16 GMT+01:00

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In an interview published in the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper, Billström offered his comments about people who help those who've had their asylum requests rejected stay in Sweden.

"Sometimes we have this image that people in hiding live with a nice Swedish lady in her fifties or sixties who wants to help," Billström told DN.

"But that's not how it is. Most of them live with their countrymen who aren't at all blonde and blue-eyed."

The comments, published as part of a wider interview about rejected asylum seekers who remain in Sweden illegally, were quick to prompt harsh criticism from several quarters.

Göran Hägglund, leader of the Christian Democrats called the statements "inappropriate", while Social Democrat MP and integration policy spokeswoman Ylva Johansson took to Twitter to describe Billström's formulation as "unpleasant and dangerous".

Hägglund's colleague, Christian Democrat migration policy spokeswoman Caroline Szyber, also expressed her concern about Billström's statements.

"Migration minister: 'blonde and blue-eyed don't hide refugees'. What sort of view of humanity is that?" she wrote on Twitter.

Green Party migration policy spokeswoman Maria Ferm told Svergies Television (SVT) that Billström's comments were "alarming".

"I think it's alarming every time we divide people – and it's totally irrelevant how people who hide refugees look," said Ferm.

"I'm worried about the direction the Moderates seem to be going these days. For example, talking about 'reducing immigration volumes'. That goes totally against the agreement we have to make migration policy more open and humane."

The head of the youth wing of Billström's own Moderate Party also slammed the him for expressing himself in an "unacceptable" manner.

"I really don't understand what hair and eye colour have to do with any of this," Erik Bengtzboe, mead of the Moderate Party youth wing MUF told the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper.

"I think he needs to take a close look and think about what he says, how it's interpreted, and apologize."

Another Moderate politician, Oliver Rosengren, who serves on the local council in Växjö in south central Sweden called for Billström to resign.

"I'm so ashamed I want to vomit over your bizarre statements," Rosengren wrote on Twitter.

"I'm booking a train ticket to Stockholm. If Billström hasn't resigned before the day is over I'm going to drag him out of Rosenbad," he continued, using a common term to describe Sweden's government offices.

Christina Höj Larsen of the Left Party called Billström's statements "concerning", saying they "contribute to structural racism" in Sweden, she told SvD.

Liberal Party (Folkpartiet) leader Jan Björklund said clumsy statements by Billström put the government's immigration and asylum policy agreement with the Green Party at risk.

"I'm concerned now that statements going in all directions threatened the deal. Both the Green Party and from the migration minister have made statements that risk the credibility of the agreement," Björklund told the TT news agency on Monday.

Billström's statements to DN "didn't make things any easier", Björklund added.

Despite withering criticism from nearly all parts of the political spectrum, Billström found sympathy for his statements from the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats, with Kent Ekeroth, the party's judicial policy spokesman, hailing the minister's "common sense".

"So he likes mass immigration, but he's got the right attitude," Ekeroth wrote on Twitter.

Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson said he didn't think Billström "meant any harm" with the blonde hair, blue-eyed formulation.

"Efforts to hide people without permits often doesn't involve citizens driven by goodwill. It may involve networks who earn lots of money by letting these people work for low wages under slave-like conditions," Åkesson said in a statement.

With criticism showing no sign of abating, Billström was forced to issue an apology around lunchtime on Monday.

Story continues below…

"I want to apologize for what's in today's DN. I understand that people have been upset over this formulation," he told TT.

He added that he wasn't misquoted in DN, explaining it's difficult to describe Sweden's "shadow society" and that he wanted to highlight the risks faced by people in hiding.

When questioned about his use of "blonde and blue-eyed" in his description, Billström confessed he "expressed himself poorly", but refused to admit that it was a racist statement, as some critics had charged.

"I can say that formulating myself in the way I did, that leads in the wrong direction and I'm sorry for that," he said, nevertheless emphasizing the need to talk about Sweden's "shadow society" and the dangers that come with it.

"It's politically relevant to talk about these issues and that was the main point of the interview. But I expressed myself stupidly in this article. Because appearance isn't relevant."

He added that he fully backs a government bill that would give the children of undocumented migrants and unaccompanied minors the right to attend school in Sweden, something that the article in DN indicated he didn't support.

TT/The Local/dl

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Your comments about this article

13:53 March 18, 2013 by skogsbo
racist or observational fact?
13:54 March 18, 2013 by matressmonkey
Yes he made a dopey choice of words, but on the basic issue of the need for a coherent immigration policy and enforcement of that policy he is absolutely right. It seems like the media is obsessed with easy ways to stir up controversy to change the debate. People on both sides make silly statements yet look at which ones are consistently reported in the Local and other media. Sweden is and will remain a small country with limited financial resources and that has nothing to do with the word choice of politicians.
14:07 March 18, 2013 by RobinHood
Once you get past the faux outrage of the usual suspects, has anyone suggested that Mr Billström's description of the majority of those who harbor illegal immigrants is inaccurate?

When it comes to immigration issues in Sweden, describing things accurately has become a risky business - even if you are the minister for immigration. It must make it very difficult for him to do his job properly.
14:21 March 18, 2013 by azimuth
Instead of speaking some ridiculous and failing speeches, this guy would be more efficient if he would put more effort on making MV doing their job much faster.
15:08 March 18, 2013 by AquamanUK
If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck - then it is Factually a Duck!

When it is a known fact, stating it should not be used to lynch the message bearer...
17:17 March 18, 2013 by just a question
I have green eyes. I don't know where I am in all of this.
17:42 March 18, 2013 by Logic_and_Reason
Career. Over.

I am a brown-haired, brown-eyed immigrant of Scotch-English descent. I am white as can be and do not look ethnic in the least. While I think his clumsy comments speak to a truth about the problem, I cannot help feel victimized by his outlook that focuses on hair, skin and eye color. It makes me wonder what my neighbors are thinking when we smile and chit-chat in the halls of our posh apartment building. What do they say behind closed doors? I never really wondered about it until reading his comments, and I have been here a decade. Now a grain of distrust has sprouted inside me toward my neighbors. I wonder if he realized this would be a byproduct of his douchebaggery.

I also wonder how he would feel if I mentioned to him that my vision of the perfect Swede does not include pale, anorexic, big-eared, nearsighted pansies swallowed up in oversized suits. You would never see him on a German propaganda poster circa 1941. He looks more like the Heinrich Himmler type...bullied on the playground and looking for payback by building a support network of thugs.
19:00 March 18, 2013 by Rishonim
Billstrom spoke like a true member of the die Herrenrasse.
19:51 March 18, 2013 by AquamanUK

YOU ARE A FOREIGNER! face face hun!

It is exactly the same as a Swedish or a 7ft tall Icelandic woman living in Scotland - YOU and your brethren would treat the person as - ALIEN! And your brethren would be HIGHLY VOCAL about it!

I have Lived for many years in Scotland and have seen it first hand!

Pot calling kettle Black! eh
20:41 March 18, 2013 by johan rebel
Outrage? What outrage? The usual looney left elite who think they can monopolize public opinion is Sweden is outraged? Who cares?
21:34 March 18, 2013 by Dr. Dillner
One can seldom speak the truth where Political Correctness is boss.
22:07 March 18, 2013 by Investor612
Always interesting to see the racial, cultural, and heritage self-loathing of the political left.

Wonder how "welcome" the locals would make him feel if he moved to Iran or Somalia?
23:37 March 18, 2013 by sousou
to solidspine.

muslims can smell bad because of the sweat as every human being and they will get rid of it after having shower but they can never smell kaka because they clean themselves with water and paper.
23:41 March 18, 2013 by Svensksmith
I'm not sure what all the fuss about skin color is all about but, if someone helps harbor an illegal alien, then they and the alien ought to be deported.
03:18 March 19, 2013 by Eric1
I don't see anything incorrect with his statement. It doesn't follow the bigotry of "political correctness" but truthful. Hating Caucasians and those who want to stop free speech are at it again. No freedom of thought and speech is allowed.
07:56 March 19, 2013 by Logic_and_Reason
@Eric1, the problem is that not all Swedes have blond hair and blue eyes. Just look at the royal family, especially princess Victoria and Daniel Westling. Bilström's comment had clear nazi overtones.

@AquamanUK, I have only been to Scotland once and the UK a handful of times. I speak with a southern drawl. Where I come from, people are very friendly and that has shaped my perspective of the world and the way people should be.
09:58 March 19, 2013 by Scambaiter
"racist or observational fact"??

Racist opinion ...there's no such thing as an "observational fact". There are facts and there are observations....and then there are opinions. Unless Billström can provide incontrovertible proof that his observations are indeed facts then he's a racist.

And what exactly does the term "political correct" mean? If is means not bullying, browbeating, lying about or abusing people of different races, religions and genders, then I must be PC.

If it means respecting other human beings and encompassing humanitarian values, then I must be PC.

Of course we all know it's just a political term engineered by neocons for political gain, intended to play to voters' fears as a red herring as well as an attack on the political left....and allow ruling majorities (usually white middle-class males) to utter their perceived "truths", ie behave like obnoxious nobs.
20:43 March 19, 2013 by Max Reaver
This is getting interesting! Now we see more and more of the subtle xenophobia coming out to the light! The talk about race and ethnicity in Sweden is like US several decades ago. Back then you could find white politicians who'd openly suggest they support the African-American people. But when they gave speech sometimes they'd use the N-word unwittingly, just like the way Billström got caught with his Freudian slip this time. Another example is Beatrice Ask, who sort of implied she thinks dark-skinned people have been convicted earlier. There is racism for sure, and I'd rather fight it when it is clearly visible.
10:25 March 20, 2013 by Aquilegia
Also interesting how many people do not know what 'refugee' means.
16:08 March 22, 2013 by james_g
Total fuss about nothing. Pathetic that people haven't got anything more important to concentrate on. Why am I wasting my time writing this...?
16:13 March 22, 2013 by kemoe
Send him to the gulag. He has no right to state the facts!!!!
18:10 March 22, 2013 by tekstrom
Blonde and blue eyes? The only Swede I ever knew who answered to that description was my husband, and he died a few years ago. Most are dark haired and the eyes are of indiscriminate color.

This is silly, Mr Billstrom, was just using a stereotype as a figure of speech. it is like expecting everyone in England to talk like the queen. We all know that is not the case, but we like to parade it out on occasion!

I agree with james_g, "much ado about nothing."
23:58 March 22, 2013 by John Redux
If you ask me, his statement did not go nearly far enough in identifying those who encourage immigration, illegal and legal, and try to prevent the removal of illegals. 75% of the people oppose immigration, while 75% of the useless politicians favor it. Democracy? Ha, Think again!
23:44 March 23, 2013 by Baroness.Fredericks
It is not racist. The only thing here is political correctness gone wild. Imagine! In Scandinavia one is not allowed to mention "blue eyes and blonde hair"! Go figure! These are immigrants, basically Islamic, who are so called "outraged" by this and the Left in general. Those who have no mindset other than that of incomers who have an agenda to undermine to overtake! Make no mistake about this. Those who follow Islam have no intent of becoming Swedish, but do have the intent to force Swedes to become and tolerate the brutality of Islam! I know Islam very well for nigh half a century now and I know of what I speak. T'is sad indeed to see this agenda take hold on once so proud a people. All of Scandinavia is being infiltrated to be outnumbered by a growing immigrant population, thusly making it all the easier to snatch it all away when they outnumber their seemingly simple minded hosts! They think all in the West are easily duped and if once focuses upon the Governments of each host nation, they may be right in their assumptions. Not everything is racist. Everyone on earth, if they truly love and support their own people, as apposed to another's, would have to then be considered "racist", by the Left's own practice of it's usage. One can not defend their own without being labeled. Much of the world has been absorbed by or taken over by Islam! They have their own lands of plenty, so I say, enough! Why should you have to put up with this pussy footed nonsensical political correct garbage, being used as a tool to undermine your efforts to remain who you are? You have a right to be blue eyed, blondes, or brown haired, brown eyed-(like myself) and call yourself Scandinavian! Immigrants must learn that when they enter any host nation that t'is they that must concede to the ways of that nation and not for the host nation to give in to the immigrant's ways or demands!!! If they do not wish to assimilate, then they MUST be sent back from whence they came. Period!
00:17 March 29, 2013 by Franciscodeflores
In spite of the unfortunate use of language by your Immigration minister, my thinking is that countries must gain control of any influx of people. Immigration can be successful if allowed in moderation so that those arriving are brought into the culture and language of the host country. Some employers like to open borders to new arrivals because it tends to add competition for jobs and drives down wages. It also places stress on local resources and when too many members of any group conglomerate they resist assimilation. This has happened in the U.S. where some have been here for 30 years and still speak little English and have little regard for the laws especially those that attempt to protect women and children from abuse. In addition, good numbers of them who have been here just a few years have already discovered how receive disability assistance (SSI) and deplete already dwindling resources. They seem to have radar for fools that give them something for nothing. No country can afford that.
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