The Local, October 7, 2011
Social Democrat Malmö mayor Ilmar Reepalu’s proposal to combat criminality by deporting new Swedish citizens who commit serious crimes has been slammed by party colleagues as “pure racism”.
On Friday, Reepalu suggested deporting criminals and introducing ‘temporary’ citizenship as ways to help combat crime in Malmö in the wake of continuing problems in the city’s Seved district-
“I believe this should be applied more often; that more active criminals who are not Swedish citizens should be deported,” said Reepalu to the Sydsvenskan newspaper.
During the spring, the problems in Seved grew more extreme and a massive police surveillance programme was initiated. But lately the problems have returned.
Postal workers in the area now carry a personal alarm and many residents say they don’t dare go out at night.
A gang of young men has been identified as responsible for the violence and disruption.
“We cannot have a society where children who are struggling in school see these young men leading a criminal lifestyle and controlling the whole area just because everyone is afraid of them,” said Reepalu.
With the high police presence in the area during spring, crime decreased by 25 percent.
Now Reepalu is calling for a larger effort by the police.
According to police superintendent Henrik Stiernblad, police presence is already high although he told TT that there are plans to increase it even further.
“We must acknowledge the fact that there are individuals in the area who believe they can commit a crime without any repercussions,” he told Sydsvenskan.
Reepalu also wants to introduce a type of temporary citizenship for new immigrants as a way to curb crime.
“A model where it is relatively quick to gain Swedish citizenship, but which entails a few years’ probationary period in which someone who commits a serious crime doesn’t yet have protection against deportation,” Reepalu told the TT news agency.
“It seems many of the serious criminal gangs come here and keep a relatively low profile until they get their citizenship. Then, once established here in Sweden, they develop a platform for international criminal activity.”
Reepalu said that apparently jail time given for these serious crimes is not enough to deter criminals.
“According to those I have spoken to, the only real threat in this situation is deportation. And it is clear that we cannot do that today within the rules for Swedish citizenship, where all Swedish citizens are equal,” he told Sydsvenskan.
When asked whether the temporary citizenship amounted to some form of second-class citizenship, Reepalu said that immigrants are already treated differently.
“You are a second class citizen before you get Swedish citizenship and today there is a rather long period of time before that.”
Reepalu initially received support from Social Democrat judicial policy spokesperson Morgan Johansson.
“This is a measure worth trying. And it is of course linked with faster processing times,” he told the TT news agency.
However, prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt quickly dismissed the idea of having different “levels” of citizenship.
“We have proposed many ways to to tighten the penalties for serious crimes regardless of who the perpetrator is. The frustration in Sweden is that there are far too many crimes not leading to prosecution. But that should not get mixed up with citizenship, which can not be divided up into sections or subcategories,” said Reinfeldt.
“Either you’re a citizen or you’re not,”
Linus Bylund, press secretary to Jimmie Åkesson, head of the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats, told news agency TT that his party has been making a similar proposal for years.
The Sweden Democrats now applaud the Social Democrats for embracing this initiative.
“They called us ugly names for this yesterday, but today they stand behind it as their own proposal,” Bylund told TT.
Later on Friday, however, Social Democrat party leader Håkan Juholt distanced himself from Reepalu’s proposal.
“The solution to gang criminality isn’t temporary or second-class citizenship. Let me be clear on this point,” he said in a statement.
Mariam Osman, a member of the Social Democrat’s governing board, also slammed the Malmö mayor’s suggestion.
“This smells like pure racism,” she told TT.
“We can’t have have people divided into two categories.”