Posted on October 25, 2004

No Longer Just Nordic

Keith B. Richburg, Washington Post, Oct. 22


Across Europe, societies that were once solidly white and Christian are being recast in a multicultural light. The arrival of large numbers of people from the Middle East, East Asia and Africa — many European countries now have minority populations of around 10 percent — is pushing aside old concepts of what it means to be French or German or Swedish.

In Sweden, nowhere is the change happening faster than in Malmo, the country’s third-largest city behind Stockholm and Goteborg. It is a gritty shipyard town of about 265,000 people. Once a major industrial center that drew people from abroad with the prospect of jobs, Malmo has lately fallen on hard times as factories have closed.

About 40 percent of Malmo’s population is foreign-born or has at least one foreign-born parent. The bulk of foreign-born people come from the former Yugoslavia, Iran, Iraq and the Horn of Africa. Among school-age children, 50 percent have at least one foreign-born parent, and analysts project that the number will soon reach 60 percent.


But the biggest problem in Malmo, and in other parts of Sweden, is what people here call “ghettoization”: White Swedes typically live in certain areas, in this case the city center, while immigrants are increasingly clustered on the outskirts in their own communities. As Hosseinkhah put it: “People physically live in this area, but they mentally live in their former countries.”