A voice for newcomers in Sweden

Swedish mobile app tries to put out asylum fires

A fire at asylum accommodation in Munkedal in October. Photo: Adam Ihse/TT

Published: 05.Nov.2015 12:30 hrs

Following a string of suspected arson attacks on temporary refugee accommodation in Sweden, a new neighbourhood watch app is hoping to spark communities into action to prevent future damage.

As Sweden continues to take in record numbers of asylum seekers, one of the side effects has been growing numbers of attacks on housing that is supposed to be keeping safe those who have fled war-torn countries to seek new lives in the Nordics.
More than a dozen fires at refugee housing were reported during the first 10 months of 2015, most of which are understood to have been started deliberately. While surveys suggest that the majority of Swedes support their country's open approach to helping refugees, there are rising concerns about a vocal, violent minority that are literally using flames to fight their corner.
"It is very serious," Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven told reporters following one of the most recent attacks in Munkedal in south western Sweden at the end of October.
"It is not the Sweden we want to see."
Now, an app developer in the famously tech-savvy nation has offered a potential solution to the problem.
Trygve, which has already helped dozens of security firms and neighbourhood watch groups to alert one another to suspicious activities since it launched in March this year, is offering to connect all buildings currently housing asylum seekers to its technology for free.
"Many of us have had enough of the recent fires on asylum accommodation. Police and local authorities are doing what they can, but it's not enough," Per Källgården, Trygve's CEO, told The Local.
"The problem is that up until now the security companies and police are typically there after 15 minutes. Criminals are very fast, it can take just five minutes for a break-in (...) police will not be available in that time so it makes sense for people in the area to know when something happens," he said.

A publicity shot for the app. Image: Trygve
The app works in two key ways. 
Firstly, accommodation owners, businesses and residents can apply to join locally organized mobile groups where they can share information about anything suspicious going on in their community. So, for example if an unknown van shows up on a usually quiet street, neighbours can inform one another and track the vehicle's movements. According to Källgården, residents in parts of Stockholm have already foiled a number of potential burglaries and stopped a potential teenage suicide by using the technology to communicate with one another.
Secondly, anyone living in Sweden can download the app, without joining an online community group, and will still automatically receive alerts if alarms go off at buildings linked to Trygve's technology. The app uses GPS, so for example Stockholmers visiting Gothenburg for the weekend would get local updates rather than information on what's going on back in the Swedish capital.
"This is technology which makes it easy for people to collaborate (...) or just be informed," explained Källgården.

Per Källgården, Trygve's CEO. Photo: Trygve
The move has already been given a cautious welcome by city council officials in Stockholm, where the majority of the 10,000 people who have already downloaded the app from Apple and Google Play are based.
"The app itself is rather good. It is used by a group of business owners in Södermalm and by others in the old town. They communicate a lot when they want to prevent pickpockets and burglaries. They write down warnings and things like that," Krister Sundgren, one of the city's two crime prevention coordinators, told The Local.
He said it was "too early to say" whether Trygve could be used specifically to prevent arson attacks, but noted that "the people running them and in the [mobile] groups will probably feel safer".
But he flatly rejected the idea that the technology could be creating a rising fear of crime in Sweden, where robbery and arson rates are well below the EU average.
"Sure Sweden is rather safer than some places but I think people like these groups and the opportunity to communicate (...) Safety is a feeling. You can feel safe when there may be a lot of crime in the neighbourhood or unsafe when there is not so much crime."

A publicity shot for the app. Image: Trygve
Trygve's offer to help asylum accommodation providers comes amid ongoing debates about whether or not the location of refugee housing should be made public. Some municipalities, such as Umeå in northern Sweden, have opted to keep precise locations secret as part of their efforts to prevent attacks.
But Källgården insisted on Thursday that his firm's technology would remain useful even if addresses did not enter the public domain.
"Chances are the people living in that area will know (...) but if they don't that's when the general alert becomes useful if something goes wrong."
Sweden recently doubled its refugee forecast for 2015, with up to 190,000 new arrivals expected on Swedish soil before the end of the year. 

More Stories

Swede's Employment Minister Ylva Johansson, Foreign Minister Margot Wallström, and US Ambassador Azita Raji. Photo: US Embassy

How can refugee women make their mark in Sweden?

Swedish ministers, the US ambassador, and organizations promoting gender equality and refugee integration met in Stockholm last week to discuss the role of refugee women inin their host country. The Local Voices was there. READ
Hundreds of people on Saturday turned out for a torchlight procession in the small town of Trollhättan in southwestern Sweden to honour the victims of last year’s deadly school attack there. READ
Sweden's environment minister on Saturday urged the European Union to ban petrol and diesel-powered vehicles from 2030. READ
Hundreds of people on Saturday demonstrated in Stockholm and in many other parts of the country to protest Sweden’s tough new laws on asylum-seekers. READ
Swedish national Osama Krayem, linked to the deadly attacks in Paris on November 13 and in Brussels on March 22, is now suspected of having plotted to attack also the Schiphol airport in the Netherlands. READ
Ratiba says living in Sweden will "give a new meaning" to her life.

Alienation in Sweden feels better: I find myself a stranger among scores of aliens

Ratiba Hanoush, 28, left Syria for Turkey in 2012 before arriving in Sweden last year. She admits that she still feels like an outsider, but explains why she is happier here than at home. READ
American singer-song writer Bob Dylan has removed any mention of him being named one of this year’s Nobel Prize laureates on his official website. READ
Sweden received 70 percent fewer requests for asylum in the period between January and September 2016 than it did during the same time last year, the country’s justice and migration minister Morgan Johansson has revealed. READ
Writer Roger Hill details his journeys on the boats that carry books over Stockholm's waterways and to its most remote places. READ
Police suspect arson in the blaze, as well as a similar incident which occurred last Sunday. READ
Justus and Emma

A layover at Qatar airport brought this Swedish-Kenyan couple together - now they're heading for marriage

Closeness, selflessness, and pleasure; falling in love is a strange but wonderful human experience. READ