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Minister: Stockholm riots 'not youth versus society'

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Minister: Stockholm riots 'not youth versus society'
18:00 CEST+02:00
With one 18-year-old remanded in custody after four nights of rioting in Stockholm, Sweden's Integration Minister Erik Ullenhag said the rioters are a small minority, and did not represent a clash between young people in the suburbs and society.

Four nights into the Stockholm riots, where young people in the outer districts of Stockholm have been torching cars and throwing stones at police officers, Integration Minister Erik Ullenhag stated that quelling the violence is a priority.

"The first conclusion, the acute conclusion, is that we don't accept people burning cars and throwing stones. The vast majority of people in these parts of the city want safety," he told The Local on Thursday.

On Wednesday, an 18-year-old man who had been arrested earlier in the week was ordered held on remand on suspicion of inciting riots and assaulting a public servant.

IN PICTURES: See the damage from the Husby fires

The suspect has previously been convicted for a number of crimes. Prosecutors has requested that another 18-year-old also be remanded in custody, but a court ruled he should be released, although suspicions against him remain. A total of five people have been detained in connection with the Husby rioting, according to the TT news agency.

The problems began in Husby, a district on the northwest edge of Stockholm, where an estimated 80 percent of residents are immigrants. However, with the story generating headlines across the globe, Ullenhag explained that the unrest is not a question of young people against society.

"I've seen in the international media that this is a riot between young people in some parts of Stockholm and the society, but this is not true. It's a small proportion. The majority of young people in Tensta, Husby, Rinkeby, they go to schools and they want to have opportunities in Sweden, and it's important to tell that story," he said.

IN PICTURES: See what people in Husby told The Local about the riots

Ullenhag added that he was looking into reforms targeting such areas that would create a much more individualized process when it comes to integrating immigrants.

"For someone with no formal education, the best way to learn Swedish is probably to have an internship and to combine that with studying Swedish," he explained.

But currently, he admitted that there are problems in these parts of the city and that the continuing riots didn't help the reputations of local residents, marking it harder to highlight positive stories.

On the first night of the riots, where witnesses estimated over 100 vehicles were torched, witnesses accused police officers of using racial slurs such as "monkey" and "nigger" when fighting the stone-throwers.

Ullenhag admitted that if such incidents did indeed occur, they need to be handled accordingly.

"Of course, it's critical that the police are acting correctly in these situations. Every accusation should be examined. I don't know what has actually happened but we need to be clear on the message that in an acute situation, we need to find a situation where the cars aren't burning as soon as possible, then we need to focus on what happened," he said.

RELATED STORY: Riot police 'resorted to racial slurs' in Husby

"I noticed, and I'm happy to see, that the police have started an investigation on what has happened. If the police have done something wrong they should stand responsible."

With police anticipating another night of unrest on Thursday, they have called on residents from both north and south of Stockholm to take action against the violence.

IN PICTURES: Stockholm riots, day three

"We've had a number of adults who have been out and about in the area and been out to show that what's going on isn't acceptable. People who get up and work in the morning are out and helping in the evening. These people are really vigilant, I think," Hesam Akbari, a spokesman for Stockholm's southern district police, told TT.

According to Akbari, most residents in the area seem to appreciate how the police are handling the situation.

"When we're forced in certain situations to go on the offensive, there have been people on their balconies that have applauded, so we think that we have support from the public," he said.

Police spokesman Jörgen Karlsson, who is based in Husby, said that the presence of adults after dark has helped calm things down in the area.

However, police remained vigilant as dusk approached on Thursday.

"We're expecting that this may continue for a while and we're ready for that. In terms of volunteers, I think they can manage for awhile, as long as there are enough and they can work in shifts," he told TT.

Oliver Gee/TT

Follow Oliver on Twitter here

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