Swedish minister calls for 50 percent cap on non-Nordic citizens in troubled areas

Immigration Minister Anders Ygeman has suggested that Sweden follow Denmark and seek to limit the concentration of people with immigrant backgrounds in the most troubled areas of its cities.

Swedish minister calls for 50 percent cap on non-Nordic citizens in troubled areas
File photo of Integration and Migration Minister Anders Ygeman. Photo: Ali Lorestani/TT

In an interview with the Dagens Nyheter newspaper (DN), Ygeman said that it was a problem for Sweden that there are districts where a majority of inhabitants come from outside the Nordic countries – Denmark, Sweden, Iceland, Finland and Norway.

“I think it’s bad to have areas where the majority have a non-Nordic origin,” he told DN.

“If you want to learn Swedish, you need to practice. If you live in an area where you can get by with the language of your home country, it becomes hugely more difficult to learn and develop the language. If, in addition, you have a job where you can get by in the language of your homeland, where are you going to practice Swedish? In that context, I think having this sort of goal can say something important.” 

A 50 percent limit

Ygeman suggested a 50 percent limit when pushed by the newspaper’s reporters on whether he thought Sweden should bring in a similar target to that of Denmark, where the ruling Social Democrats have brought in a target that no housing development in the country should have more than 30 percent of the population with a non-Western background by 2030.

The Danish government considers “Western” countries to be EU countries plus Andorra, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Norway, San Marino, Switzerland, the UK, the Vatican, Canada, USA, Australia and New Zealand.

“That’s just a starting point. If we’re going to impose that number [as a target] for real, then we need to carry out an inquiry and think about it. But if you want to have my “hunch”, I’d put the number there,” Ygeman said.

Ygeman, however, believes that other factors – such as unemployment, level of education and criminality – are more important than residents’ country of origin when determining whether an area should be classed as ‘vulnerable’ or not.

Sweden’s “vulnerable areas” – the lowest on a three-step scale, followed by “risk areas” and “especially vulnerable areas” – are described by the police authority as areas “characterised by a low socioeconomic status where criminals have an effect on the local community”.

“But the socio-economic factors also have an ethnic dimension,” Ygeman told DN, “as around 75 percent of the long-term unemployed have a non-Nordic background.”

Ygeman told DN that the number of residents with a non-Nordic background could “maybe be one of five criteria”, when classifying “vulnerable areas”.

Flexible renting

Another Danish idea which Ygeman would like to see in Sweden is so-called “flexible renting”, DN reports.

This consists of letting workers and students skip housing queues in “vulnerable areas”, in a bid to fill these areas with people who can support themselves financially.

“We need to make it easier for people who work or study to move into vulnerable areas and risk areas,” Ygeman told DN.

“We need quite tough requirements so that we don’t fill vulnerable areas up with people who are less able to pay.”

On the question of where the unemployed and those who are less able to support themselves will live, Ygeman told DN that “in all cities with vulnerable areas, there are twenty areas which aren’t vulnerable. Why do newly-arrived people need to live in that exact vulnerable area?”

This could be due, in part, to the fact that it’s easier to get an apartment in these areas, since they have a bad reputation and are cheaper, the newspaper’s reporters argued.

“Maybe we need to think about whether the requirements on income and being able to support yourself should be as strict across municipalities,” Ygeman told DN. “Maybe requirements should be a bit more simple in other areas, so you get a more mixed population.”

‘Non-Western’ sounds ‘colonial’

Ygeman did, however, admit to DN that Denmark’s debate concerning “non-Western” immigrants has “maybe not been so successful”.

“There’s something about that ‘non-Western’ thing which sounds ‘off’,” he said.

“There’s a colonial touch to it. ‘We’re Western, you’re…’ I think ‘non-Nordic works just as well to describe the problem.”

Member comments

  1. I was wondering, what about people coming from the US, Australia and such countries. They do not speak Swedish and there is a risk they might create their own pockets too. Perhaps non Nordic is a better term to use because the entire purpose of this rule would be for people to integrate well in the society and it’s easier for Nordic countries to do that because of language similarities.

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Five of Sweden’s political parties planned to evade party financing laws

Five of the eight political parties in the Swedish parliament discussed evading party financing laws with a businessman secretly working with journalists, a new investigation by broadcaster TV4 has found.

Five of Sweden's political parties planned to evade party financing laws

“There’s every reason to demand moral and political responsibility,” political scientist Jonas Hinnfors said of how Sweden’s society should react to the investigation’s findings. “It’s a threat to democracy.”

The new law on donations to political parties which came into force in 201  dictates that parties must declare all donations received from private individuals or businesses. Donators can remain anonymous, byt only as long as their donation does not exceed 24,150 kronor (€2,281). Larger donations must be declared along with the name of the donor.

The Kalla Fakta team which produced the documentary hired two businessmen to call each parliamentary party and ask how they could donate half a million kronor, while staying anonymous. The conversations were recorded and meetings filmed with a hidden camera.

Three parties – the Centre Party, the Left Party and the Green Party – said that it wasn’t possible for the donor to remain anonymous. 

But the other five parties – the Social Democrats, the Moderates, the Sweden Democrats, the Christian Democrats and the Liberals – suggested different ways of getting around the requirements.

Christian Democrat press secretary Peter Kullgren suggested splitting up donations and donating to individual candidates so that each donation remained under the legal limit.

Another method, proposed by Sweden Democrat head of finance Lena-Karin Lifvenhjelm, consisted of giving the money to another individual who would donate it under their name instead.

Magdalena Agrell, the Social Democrat’s head of finance, discussed finding someone else to act as a front in recorded telephone conversations.

The chairman and communications chief of the Social Democrat’s youth organisation, Diyar Cicek and Youbert Aziz, suggested that the businessman instead create a foundation to donate the money.

The Moderate Party’s ombudsman Patrik Haggren proposed that donations could be sent from different members of the businessman’s family in order to remain anonymous.

Lisa Flinth, who is responsible for leadership support in the Liberal Party, also proposed this method, providing the contact details of a middleman, the consultant Svend Dahl.

Dahl first proposed that his company send an invoice of half a million kronor to the businessman, but later suggested that the money be transferred to him to donate to the Liberals in his name, thereby avoiding having to pay tax.

“It’s important you keep yourself anonymous,” Dahl said in Kalla Fakta‘s recordings of conversations with the undercover businessman.

Dahl is a political scientist and has previously been head of media organisation Liberala Nyhetsbyrån.

Flinth was well aware of the fact that the method undermines the aim of the law, telling the businessman in a telephone conversation that it was very important that nothing could be traced back to the party.

“It could have serious consequences,” she said. “We don’t really have any margins when it comes to credibility.”

“If there was an article about this in the middle of a heated election campaign and we miss the threshold for getting in to parliament, I would never forgive myself,” she said.

Political scientist Jonas Hinnfors, who commented on the conversation for the Kalla Fakta team, said he was shocked after hearing it.

“They know what the point of the new legislation is,” he told Kalla Fakta. “Going against that is political dynamite.”

In a written comment on their website, the Liberals’ vice-party secretary Gustav Georgson stated that the party would not use Dahl’s consulting services again and that it “takes the statements made by Kalla Fakta seriously and will act forcefully to avoid similar situations happening again.”