Becky Evans, Daily Mail (London), May 22, 2013
Hundreds of youths attacked police and emergency services last night as rioting in Stockholm’s poor immigrant suburbs escalated.
Yesterday’s violence, which has intensified over three days of rioting, saw gangs torch dozens of cars and attack two schools and a police station.
It is Sweden’s worst disorder in years and has shocked the country and provoked a debate on how Sweden is coping with youth unemployment and an influx of immigrants.
The disorder has intensified despite a call for calm from Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt.
Last night, rioters attacked the police station in the Jakosberg area in the northwest of the city and set fire to 30 cars.
Groups of youths also smashed shop windows and burned down a 19th Century cultural centre.
Gangs of up to 60 set fire to a school and a nursery and hurled rocks at police and firefighters.
The unrest appears to have been sparked by the police killing of a 69-year-old man wielding a machete in the suburb of Husby on Sunday, which prompted accusations of police brutality.
It has provoked fierce debate in the country, which prides itself on a reputation for social justice, on the government’s economic policies.
Critics say immigrant ghettos have been created where unemployment is high and there are few opportunities for residents.
The left-leaning tabloid Aftonbladet said the riots represented a ‘gigantic failure’ of government policies, which had underpinned the rise of ghettos in the suburbs.
‘We have failed to give many of the people in the suburbs a hope for the future,’ Anna-Margrethe Livh of the opposition Left Party wrote in the daily Svenska Dagbladet.
An anti-immigrant party, the Sweden Democrats, has risen to third in polls ahead of a general election due next year, reflecting unease about immigrants among many voters.
Eight people were arrested last night but police said they had no reports of injuries.
Kjell Lindgren, spokesman for Stockholm police, said today: ‘We’ve had around 30 cars set on fire last night, fires that we connect to youth gangs and criminals.’
Prime Minister Reinfeldt told reporters yesterday: ‘Everyone must pitch in restore calm – parents [and] adults.’
After decades of practising the ‘Swedish model’ of generous welfare benefits, the country has been reducing the role of the state since the 1990s, spurring the fastest growth in inequality of any advanced OECD economy.
While average living standards are still among the highest in Europe, governments have failed to substantially reduce long-term youth unemployment and poverty, which have affected immigrant communities worst.
Some 15 per cent of the population is foreign-born, the highest proportion in the Nordic region.
Unemployment among those born outside Sweden stands at 16 per cent, compared with just six per cent for native Swedes, according to OECD data.
Among 44 industrialised countries, Sweden ranked fourth in the absolute number of asylum seekers, and second relative to its population, according to U.N. figures.