Stockholm’s brotherhood reveals inequalities that divide Swedish society
The construction of a bridge to connect one of Stockholm’s poorest neighborhoods with a wealthier neighborhood has sparked fierce debate and forced Sweden’s deepening socio-economic divides further into the spotlight.
The bridge, which is due to be completed later this year, will connect the disadvantaged district of Rinkeby in northern Stockholm with the more affluent area of Sundbyberg.
Sweden’s far-right claims that the project will see crime and crime spread across the city. But residents say the bridge will make commuting easier while reducing segregation.
“It will make it easier for the buses, and for the people who work and live in the area. They will no longer have to make long detours,” says Mustafa Andic, who grew up in Rinkeby but now lives in Sundbyberg.
A peak in violence
Fatal crime in Sweden has risen by almost 40% in a year, and charities now say socio-economic inequality in the Scandinavian country has reached record levels.
Rinkeby is one of the country’s breeding grounds for gang violence.
“I don’t want to go to another funeral. I’m tired of it! Too many of our children are being buried,” said Clarissa Seidou, a police officer in Rinkeby. “This can’t go on. Kids having their lives destroyed, 16-year-olds, 20-year-olds getting shot.”
Crackdown on immigration
To curb the issue, and to secure the support of the far-right Sweden Democrats, the Swedish government promised to tighten migration policy and increase deportations.
“Today, 20% of the Swedish population was born abroad. They come from low-income countries and have low education,” he said. “This has increased income inequality significantly in Sweden.” Martin Kinnunen, a Sweden Democratic member of parliament, told Euronews.
Kinnunen also claims that Sweden’s mass immigration policy over the past 30 years is responsible for “the difficult situation in schools, organized crime and high unemployment figures”.
But Clarissa Seidou, community police officer in Rinkeby, says the problems lie elsewhere.
– Most of the young suspects were born in Sweden. They are Swedish. Where are they going to send them back?” she points out.
“These are young people who kill each other. They sign contracts to commit murder. Those who do it are between 14 and 16 years old. They do it because they will make some money.” Repression alone cannot solve the difficult issues at stake: “We have to try to change the way we work. We need cooperation between social services, schools and the police. Otherwise we will never succeed.” says Clarissa.
Sundbyberg resident Mustafa Andic thinks employment is the key. He told Euronews that if the immigrants who came to Sweden had got jobs and learned Swedish, they would have been able to integrate better into society.
He added that politicians should focus on the root cause of gang violence rather than fighting over a bridge, which he sees as a way to end segregation.
“When you house all immigrants in one area, this is what happens. You have to mix people for the system to work and to prevent prejudice,” he explained.
Martin Malmberg, principal at Rinkeby’s high school, where several students dropped out in the past year to join gangs, points to the deterioration of the Swedish education system.
“All those students have been those who have not received grades to get to another level in the Swedish school system. In this neighborhood there are many children who do not go to kindergarten. They are not ready to start school at the age of six. And eventually they drop out of school.”
The privatization of the school system has only made matters worse, he says.
“In this area, maybe only 30, 40% of the teachers have a college degree. We have a lot of schools that fake the grades for the kids. And a lot of them drop out during high school. Because it’s tougher on them. They’re not ready for it .”
A situation that is just one of the symptoms of the Swedish model of social and economic welfare’s slow decline.
Award-winning journalist Andreas Cervenka, described how the so-called “folkhemmet” (people’s house) became a “paradise for the super rich”, in his book “Greedy Sweden”.
“There are more dollar billionaires in Sweden than in most countries in the world, except for some small tax havens like Monaco,” he told euronews’ Valerie Gauriat.
The result of a process that started in the nineties. “We abolished many taxes in Sweden, from the nineties with the wealth tax, then the property tax, the gift tax, the inheritance tax. And in addition, we privatized many of our welfare services, such as schools and healthcare. Sweden is the only country in the world where you can become a billionaire by running schools that actually depend on taxpayers’ money.” he explains.
“Sweden has actually become one of the most unequal countries in the world. We have a small but very, very rich elite, and then we have a fairly large group that is economically vulnerable. And that group is actually larger than ever in Sweden. almost 15% of the population.”
A situation that has recently been confirmed by a recent Oxfam’s latest Global Equality Index, which shows that Sweden had fallen last among the Nordic countries in the fight against inequalities.
Worsened by the crisis and inflation, the uncertainty affects more and more Swedes, says Jonas Wihlstrand, head of Sweden’s leading charity. The city mission, interviewed in a busy food kitchen in central Stockholm. More and more people, with a low pension or income, are seeking the organizations’ help, and registrations for the City Mission’s social supermarkets have doubled this year.
“The number of people seeking help has increased drastically this year. It’s a new situation that civil society has to take responsibility for feeding people,” says Wihlstrand. “We don’t want to see this accelerate, and that’s the responsibility of the politicians,” he concluded.