Firefighters battle 5th suspected arson at Swedish refugee shelters in 2 weeks
Teams from three fire stations have been deployed to extinguish the blaze at a former retirement home in Oderljunga, being prepared to become a temporary asylum for refugees, The Local reports. The fire alarm at the facility went off at about 2:40 a.m. local time, regional newspaper Sydsvenskan reported.
The firefighters were able to put out fire almost immediately and save the building, which suffered only slight damage from the water that was poured on it and the smell of smoke that saturated the installation.
There were no asylum seekers inside and no one was hurt in the incident, but several firemen told Swedish broadcaster SVT they were positive the fire at the former retirement home was a deliberate attack, linking the fire to a string of suspected arson attacks targeting refugee installations throughout Sweden in the last two weeks.
“Based on what has happened so far in the country and given that the window is broken, it is easy to suspect that it was planned. But it is a police matter to investigate the course of the fire,” SVT cited Daniel Sirensjö, the region’s fire and rescue service control room operator, as saying.
Police confirmed the case is being investigated as a possible arson attack.
The latest figures from Sweden's Migration Board suggest that some 10,000 refugees have arrived in the Nordic nation since the beginning of the year – about twice as many as in the previous highest year, in 1992.
It appears that some locals not only disagree with Stockholm’s policies toward asylum seekers, but are taking illegal actions in an attempt to destroy places that could accommodate foreigners.
The previous four suspected arsons at facilities intended to house asylum seekers includes one last week, where an old school building was seriously damaged in Onsala, south of Gothenburg, and the burning down of two more buildings designated as shelters in southern Sweden’s Ljungby and Arlöv. The refugee center in Upplands Väsby, north of Stockholm, was damaged by fire on Tuesday night.
All the buildings were apparently set on fire on the eve of opening their doors to migrants and refugees, who have come to Sweden from countries in the Middle East and North Africa devastated by domestic conflicts and outside interventions.
Swedish authorities say that, in view of the suspected arsonists’ tactics, they are keeping secret the exact plans to welcome new groups of asylum seekers for fear of new attacks. However, so far the locations of some centers are apparently being discovered or leaked, with 14 suspected arson attacks on refugee centers in Sweden since the start of the year.
Security measures at other refugee centers have been tightened, while the authorities claim there is a limit to a number of refugees that Sweden can accept.
“Sweden is approaching the limit of its [refugee] capacity,” Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven said this week.
Sweden is currently the European country that hosts the most refugees in proportion to its population.
In Germany, where protests against the unprecedented influx of refugees have swept the country in the last couple of years, police are also investigating alleged cases of arson targeting buildings supposed to accommodate asylum seekers.