Along with claims that the country has opened its doors to greater numbers than it can handle, it’s been said that there are now whole areas that are ‘no-go zones’ for police due to unmanageable levels of crime after the number of immigrants residing in these communities. But is this the locals’ impression of their city?
The verdict: “There are no such no-go zones.”
Residents say murder rates in Malmö have been high lately, but most are from drug related gang conflict, so they themselves don’t feel afraid when they are walking around the streets.
While they wouldn’t call immigration itself is an issue, they say that “something really needs to be done about integration”:
“The city is divided. You have certain areas which are very segregated from the rest of the community and that’s always problematic, it doesn’t matter whose living there or where they’re originally from. It’s the fact that they’re maybe less educated, don’t have jobs, a lot of people suffer from bad memories and experiences from before, the whole package.
“There’s some clashes. Culture clashes. That’s probably inevitable but we need to get past it and become whole, and Malmö as a city is really trying.”
There are many projects around the city which aim to connect people from different ethnic groups. One pairs people who call Sweden home with those who have recently arrived. This project is apparently so oversubscribed they are having trouble matching people. One student living in Malmö said she has applied three times and they still haven’t had time to get back to her:
“People in this city do want to meet each other and they do want to build bridges.”
It is true that recent years have seen a rise in Sweden’s notoriously low crime rate, bringing more attention to the matter: “Everything’s relative to what you compare it to and in general Sweden is a very calm country, we are just use to nothing happening and so this issue seems really big.”
Sweden is also known for its culture of very politically correct dialogue, limiting discussion of the integration of migrants: “That’s more among politicians, it’s them that don’t talk about it. They’ve started to now but it’s been quiet for a long time.”
Another local said: “Everyone is overly polite and we’re so afraid of hurting someone else’s feelings. That’s definitely a problem.
“The base of that – issues talking about issues – is because we care. And we don’t want to step on other people. It comes from a good place but then it ends up making it harder and creates issues that shouldn’t be there because we don’t talk about it.”
Some do attribute the changing atmosphere in the city to how it’s opened its border to so many migrants. One woman who has lived in Malmö for six years says she has noticed a clear difference: “When I first came here it was pretty calm. Now there are areas where, as a woman, l feel unsafe and wouldn’t go to at night.
“People go mad because they’re not use to it.”
While she says there has been a strong reaction to the increase in crime, the conversation is constrained by a fear of appearing intolerant to those who come to live there from other countries:
“It’s easy here whatever you say about the immigrant topic to be called racist even if you’re talking about completely different issues that have nothing to do with race.”
The nation’s view on this apparently varies depending on what part of the country they live in: “If you ask someone from up north, they are very positive about immigration because there’s not so much of it, they’re not that effected. In Malmö there are a lot more voices from the right because the people here meet the problems on a daily basis.
“Here it effects your life in terms of schools, hospitals, because there’s an excess problem. You can’t really get into healthcare, the whole city is suffering because of immigration. It’s too much, Malmö’s not prepared for the amount of people with needs this big. Every immigrant that comes has health care issues, psychological issue and nothing is ready.”
Some acknowledge a spike in crime while saying the problem is exaggerated and unrelated to immigration: “The crime level has gone up, that’s just fact, but I’ve never heard of no-go zones.”
“There’s no part of Malmo that I don’t feel like I could move around in. Some areas I would not walk alone in the middle of the night. But it’s always been like that, that hasn’t changed. Blaming immigrants is just an easy excuse. Integration is difficult and it’s simple to blame them.”