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November 13, 2015

Refugee crisis causes Sweden to tighten borders


After initially welcoming refugees seeking asylum from places like Syria, Sweden announced it will impose borders controls due to its inability to handle the number of refugees that have already arrived.

With the current rise of migrations from Syria and other conflict-ridden countries in the Middle East and Africa, Sweden has already taken in about 200,000 refugees — more per capita than any of its European neighbors. Appeals for the rest of Europe to accept more refugees have largely been ignored.

The influx of refugees has Sweden’s welfare system close to collapse and has caused serious tensions throughout the country. In the past year, anti-immigrant extremists set fire to more than 20 refugee housing locations.

Retired Police Chief Superintendent Torsten Elopsson worries that Sweden has lost control of the situation and said low job opportunities may lead to social disorder and crime. “You have the social workers that are down on their knees. You have the education system that is challenged,” Elopsson said.

But Hillevi Larsson, a Swedish Member of Parliament, disagrees. “Somebody has to support them, and now we have many refugees coming who are young, well-educated people. So I think they could really benefit the Swedish economy,” Larsson said.

The border checks are meant to be a temporary move lasting no more than 10 days, but the government does have the ability to extend the measures if it wants.

Despite the circumstances, many refugees, including 17-year-old Qais Ahmadiar who recently fled Kunduz, Afghanistan with his family, still hope to make it to Sweden. “We want to go to Sweden because … I feel good here, and also our brother and family is also here,” Ahmadiar said.


asylum — the protection granted by a nation to someone who has left their native country as a political refugee

Schengen system — a treaty signed in 1985 and fully implemented in 1995 to remove all border controls and allow permit free movement of persons between participating European countries

Warm up questions
  1. What do you know about the migrant crisis in Europe?
  2. Why are refugees from Syria and elsewhere migrating to Europe?
  3. What are some concerns a country might have about the arrival of a large number of immigrants?
Critical thinking questions
  1. Why did Sweden decide to close its borders after initially encouraging Syrians to seek asylum there?
  2. What affect will the closing of Sweden’s borders likely have on other European nations?
  3. What should be done to encourage other nations to share the burden of taking in refugees?
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