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Students forced out over traveller safety fears

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Students forced out over traveller safety fears
18:26 CEST+02:00
Stockholm University exchange students have been told to leave their accommodation immediately after a community of travellers set up an illegal camp nearby, raising concerns for the students' safety.

Doug Revolta, an Erasmus student from the UK, had been living since mid-January in Stockholm University accommodation in the capital city's northern suburbs.

"I was having a great time here, and when they offered us the chance to extend our lease back in April I said yes, absolutely. I wanted to stay here for Swedish midsummer," he told The Local.

However, the plan took an unexpected turn this week when the university housing office sent an email to Revolta and his fellow students warning them that a nearby travelling community had caused enough concern that the students should move out.

"Because of the people who illegally moved into the parking area close to your apartments, we have decided that all students will be moved on June 17th," the university wrote in an email to the students.

"The Housing Office at Stockholm University have done everything we can to resolve the situation, but our possibilities are very limited," the university added, also warning that if "something happens" the students should call the police.

In a follow-up email sent on Friday, the message was more urgent:

"We would like everyone to move out today. We cannot guarantee the security for students over the weekend anymore."

The move was sparked by a community of what Revolta estimates to be 50 families living in caravans in a nearby car park. The families have got out of hand in recent weeks, according to Revolta, who said that some of his classmates had nearly been run over by the community's vehicles. Some students, including himself, have even been threatened by the families.

A police spokeswoman confirmed that the families are on the police radar.

"It is hard for us to control, they are uninvited and living on land that the university claims does not belong to them," Helena Appelgren told The Local.

"Patrols have been sent out several times, but nothing has happened there, I can't confirm that we have made any arrests. We don't usually arrest people just for camping illegally," she added.

"But this is a recurring problem that we have every year, it's people from all kinds of places making things very problematic around these areas for a lot of people."

Appelgren pointed to excessive noise and garbage pile-ups as some of the complaints the police receive.

Bo Sundin, Moderate Party chairman of the Stockholm city district of Rinkeby-Kista, had yet to hear about the university students, but was familiar with the caravan families in the area.

"We are not interested in having them in around here, not even in Stockholm. But it's hard, when we force them away, they move to another place," he told The Local.

"The caravan people are coming here in summer each year trying to find work, and it causes a lot of problems that often involve police. It's mostly bad conditions for the people living there, and a lot of them have children. And they often leave a lot of mess behind them when they go."

"Another problem is that many of them are on the black market, but made their way here because they're from other European countries and it's easy for them to move."

Sundin added that the problem would be best solved if police acted faster.

"The police should force them away as soon as they learn about them, I'd actually hoped it would be done by now."

With the students having to head to the newly arranged accommodation by Friday night, there have been mixed reactions among the Erasmus students.

"Everyone was just annoyed at first, actually, but now a lot of people are worried. The girls are really scared, they don't feel safe," student Doug Revolta said.

The Local's attempts to reach Stockholm University have been unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, the local police are working hard to keep the peace.

"We get a lot of calls about it and we are conscious that there's a problem," spokeswoman Helena Appelgren told The Local.

"But we're working there all the time and trying to solve the problem, but these things can take a lot of time."

Oliver Gee

Follow Oliver on Twitter here

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