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IMMIGRATION

Refugees flee ‘haunted’ Swedish migration centre

A group of Syrians have fled in terror from a refugee centre in southern Sweden after a succession of strange, inexplicable happenings left them convinced it was haunted by ghosts.

Refugees flee 'haunted' Swedish migration centre
Sweden's Migration Agency has forced the refugees to return to the house. Photo: TT
Thirty five of the 38 refugees housed at a centre in Grännaforsa, a small village in Småland, took refuge in the offices of the Migration Agency in the nearby town of Alvesta on Tuesday, after the incidence of strange activity increased. 
 
“In the last three days it has been getting worse and worse with these ghosts,” Hamid Alojaili from Syria told Sveriges Radio at the centre in Alvesta. 
 
“We are too scared. Last night nobody slept at all, neither the kids nor us.” 
 
Magnus Peterson, head of the Migration Agency in Alvesta, told the local Smålandsposten newspaper that the refugees’ complaint was “surprising”. 
 
“We have had no indications that there would be problems with ghosts before,” he said. 
 
“We are taking this seriously, and believe that we can explain the events. The ghosts may in fact be wild animals which have got into the garden. The refugees come from a different culture with spiritual beliefs.” 
 
Alojaili said that one of the refugees’ children had reported seeing a ghost soon after their arrival. 
 
“He opened the room and he saw something on top of the table, and when he tried to find out what was that thing, that thing jumped under the table and disappeared,” Alojaili said. 
 
“At the beginning  we thought it was only our kids who were giving us stories, but then we adults started hearing sounds,” he continued. 
 
He said that doors in the house were inexplicably unlocked, the fire alarm would go off for no reason, and that refugees frequently heard the showers or toilets being used, only to discover that there was no one inside them. 
 
“These kids they didn’t eat since yesterday, they didn’t drink, they are unable even to go to the toilet. It is the same for the ladies. Everyone is afraid,” he said. 
 
The refugee added that when the temporary residents complained to the local Swedish person managing the refugee centre, they admitted that it was haunted. 
 
“He said, ‘Yes, but it’s a good ghost, it is not a bad ghost. We know about it, and even in my house we have one. These good ghosts, they clean up after you. They don’t do anything bad to you.’” 
 
Peterson said that the refugees had returned to the centre on Wednesday, after the Migration Agency told them that no alternative accommodation was available. 
 
“Everything went calmly, some had gone back earlier,” he said. “There was no problem. They want to find another accommodation, but it is impossible.
 
Stefan Johansson, a co-owner of the facility, told AP newswire that the building had been constructed in the 19th century and that its creaky piping may have alarmed residents. 
 
“It’s an old house and the doors maybe are a bit crooked,” he said. “Sometimes there are cracking noises in the pipes.”
 
The flickering lights were caused by problems with the electrical wiring he said. 
 
“We have explained all this to them. How much of it they took in I don’t know,” he said.

IMMIGRATION

INTERVIEW: ‘It’s a way to jokingly show that Sweden is very segregated’

Michael Lindgren, the comedian and producer behind the new Swedish TV quiz show Invandrare för Svenskar, or "Immigrants for Swedes', tells The Local how the seemingly superficial game show is actually very serious indeed.

INTERVIEW: 'It's a way to jokingly show that Sweden is very segregated'

SVT’s new gameshow Invandrare för Svenskar (IFS) began with a simple image on a computer. 

“I wanted to do something to show the simple fact that the category of invandrare [immigrant] is a really stupid category,” says Michael Lindgren, the co-founder of the Swedish comedy group Grotesco, and creator of Invandare för Svenskar

“I was just playing around with pictures of people with different values and professions and personalities to like, show the multitude of humanity, and then I placed an ethnic Swede in the middle and I built a block of people with different backgrounds around that blonde person. and I was thinking it would be fun to put a Swede in the minority.” 

It was only when a friend pointed out that the image he had made looked like the famous quiz game Hollywood Squares, a big 1980s hit in Sweden as Prat i kvadrat, that the idea to turn the image into a game show came about. 

Shortly afterwards, he contacted the show’s host, the comedian Ahmed Berhan, and began working with him and some of the other celebrities with immigrant backgrounds on the concept. 

The panelists on Invandrare för Svenskar.
 

Critics in Sweden are divided over the new gameshow, in which ordinary Swedes have to guess whether celebrity immigrants are lying or telling the truth about their home cultures. 

Karolina Fjellborg, at Aftonbladet, called it a “potential flop”, which was “forced and painfully shallow”. 

“And yet her paper, Aftonbladet, has written about it several times!” Lindgren exclaims when I mention this.  “Some people think it’s too stupid and glossy. It’s had rave reviews and very critical reviews, which I think is perfect.” 

He rejects the charge that the show treats a serious subject in too frivolous a way. 

“I’m an entertainer. I work in comedy. Of course, it’s superficial,” he says. “It’s a glossy game show on the surface, but underneath it’s a way to jokingly address the fact that we still think in these categories, that Sweden is a very segregated society, and we need to address that with more honesty.”

“The other point is that the idea of ‘immigrants’ as a group is absurd. It’s not a homogenous group. I think Swedes need to be faced with that, that the category is false. ‘Immigrants’ is useful as a statistical category, meaning people who actually migrated here. Most panelists in the show are born in Sweden, but Swedes tend to see them as immigrants anyway. For how many generations?”

He says his favourite moments in the show come when the contestants are nervous that they might give an answer that reveals them as prejudiced, and you can feel a slight tension, or the few moments when they do make an embarrassing mistake. 

Even though the atmosphere is deliberately kept as warm and light-hearted as possible, it’s these flashes of awkwardness, he feels, that reveal how uncomfortable many people in Sweden are about ethnic and cultural differences. 

It’s clearly something he thinks about a lot. Unlike immigration to countries like the UK or France, which are the result of long histories of empire, he argues, the immigration to Sweden, at least since the 1970s, has been driven by a sense of Lutheran guilt at the wealth the country amassed as a result of remaining neutral in the Second World War. 

Immigration, he argues, happened too quickly for the ordinary Swedish population to really understand the cultures of those arriving. 

Michael Lindgren, founder of ”IFS-invandrare för svenskar”. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT
 
“I like to see Sweden as a little bit like The Shire in The Lord of the Rings,” he says. “It is located up in the corner of the map, peaceful and quite, with a very homogenous, old, peasant population. Historically shielded from the big world outside. Immigration is fairly new to Sweden, from outside Europe basically from the seventies onward, that is just fifty years ago. In what was in large part a political project from above.”
 
“And there is a discrepancy, because the majority population is still that old peasant population, and we didn’t learn a lot about the people coming here. We’re polite and friendly, but culturally very reserved, and I think that’s also about the climate, we don’t intermingle a lot. We don’t invite people into our homes easily.” 

According to Lindgren, the reception of the show has been great. Some of the show’s panel have a big following among Swedes with immigrant backgrounds, meaning it is drawing a demographic to Sweden’s public broadcaster that it normally struggles to reach. 

“The ambition is that the primary audience for this show is Swedes with mixed backgrounds, Swedes with a background in another country,” he says. “It’s a very tough demographic to reach. It’s a demographic that simply doesn’t watch public service, because it’s usually not made for them, and they seem to really enjoy it.” 

He has plans for the next series to include short factual segments. 

“I’m not saying I’m gonna make it serious. It’s supposed to be fun and jokey and entertaining and light, and I’m not going to change it in its core,” he says. “But I think it would add to the entertainment and variety to pause maybe twice in the show and say ‘this is actually true’, just stay at a point of discussion for 30 seconds, and maybe have a graphic to back it up.” 

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