It’s hard to recognise Sweden from the news reports we're reading nowadays. Yesterday, a 15-year-old at an immigration centre stabbed and killed one of its female employees in Mölndal, near Gothenburg. It’s the kind of story that shakes the country to its core. Sweden has taken a staggering number of unaccompanied children - some 20,000 in the past four months - so the government has to act in loco parentis. To keep them out of trouble, as well as educate and accommodate then. It’s a very tough ask, a job that many Swedes fear is simply beyond the competence of government. In such circumstances, appalling things can happen.
A police spokesman had this to say:
'It was messy, of course, a crime scene with blood. The perpetrator had been overpowered by other residents, people were depressed and upset. These kinds of calls are becoming more and more common... We're dealing with more incidents like these since the arrival of so many more refugees from abroad.'
What makes this worse is that in Sweden, the police refuse to say if the suspect was an asylum seeker or not. This happens time and time again: a weird and unusual crime (say, a random stabbing in Ikea or gang rape on a ferry) and the Swedish police (and press) refuse to say whether the perpetrator is an immigrant - as if admitting as much would somehow feed anti-immigrant sentiment.
In fact, the refusal to level with the Swedish public is having the opposite (tragic) effect. News of an attack brings grief and outrage, but the sense that the authorities are not telling the whole truth brings a new level of anger and suspicion. All of this further undermines public support for immigration, and hands votes to the Sweden Democrats. This party, routinely described as 'neofascist' by the Swedish press, has the support of about 20 per cent of Swedes. Failure to handle the immigration crisis has incubated a political crisis.
Ivar Arpi wrote earlier this month about the Stockholm sex attacks, which came to light after the Cologne attacks:-
Peter Ågren, police chief in central Stockholm, said: 'Sometimes we do not dare to say how things really are because we believe it will play into the hands of the Sweden Democrats.’ As we now know, police officers in Stockholm are instructed not to reveal the ethnicity or nationality of any suspects lest they be accused of racism.
And, in this way, a xenophobic populist backlash is being incubated in the most open country on earth. It really does take some doing.