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24 Oct, 2015 20:17

String of suspected arsons in Sweden: Two planned refugee shelters set ablaze

Two more shelters intended for refugees went up in flames in Sweden, continuing a recent series arson of attacks that police believe are directed against arriving asylum seekers amidst the migrant crisis in Europe.

In the latest incident, a children’s summer camp in the Swedish town of Eskilstuna, located about 112 kilometers west of the country’s capital of Stockholm, was engulfed in flames. The camp was planned to host about 60 asylum seekers.

The firefighters received a call reporting the ablaze at around 11 pm local time (9 pm GMT) on Friday, but the camp’s main structure had already been almost completely destroyed by the time they arrived at the scene.

There were no people inside the building at that time, and nobody was injured in the incident.

READ MORE: ‘I thought I was going to die:’ Arson in Sweden targets asylum seeker center

Police have launched a preliminary investigation into the alleged arson attack, as there was no ‘natural’ reason for the fire to break out in the camp, police spokesman Johan Levin said, as reported by Reuters.

Around the same time, another fire started in a refugee center in the town of Munkedal in southwestern Sweden, which had already been damaged by fire earlier in another suspected arson attack last week. However, that blaze was tackled quickly and no-one was injured because the area had been cordoned off after the previous incident.

The two fires in the planned refugee shelters are just the most recent in a string of similar attacks.

As many as seven alleged arsons in buildings designed to host asylum seekers have taken place in just the last two weeks, including an old school building that burned in Onsala, south of Gothenburg; a former retirement home set on fire in Oderljunga, and three more buildings that were torched in the towns of Ljungby, Väsby and Arlöv.

READ MORE: Firefighters battle 5th suspected arson at Swedish refugee shelters in 2 weeks

The total number of such alleged attacks has reached 20 since the beginning of 2015.

“If it’s because of the fact that some people think this type of lodging should not exist — then that’s really terrible,” local official Tryggve Lundh told Swedish SR public radio. 

In view of the recent wave of arson, authorities have tightened security measures at refugee centers and decided to keep the exact locations of potential future shelters secret.

However, the whereabouts of some have, nonetheless, been discovered or leaked, such as when a local Eskilstuna-Kuriren newspaper reported earlier in October that the summer camp in Eskilstuna could potentially be used to house asylum seekers.


Approaching capacity limits?

Sweden, a country of 9.8 million people with a traditionally open and welcoming policy towards refugees, has already taken in 100,000 asylum seekers this year, with 90,000 more expected to arrive in the country before the year’s end.

As a result, Sweden has accepted more refugees in 2015 than in any other year of its history and, at present, has the largest proportion of refugees in relation to its native population in Europe.

The ongoing mass influx of refugee has led to growing support for the country’s far-right and raised concerns in Swedish society that the situation could get out of hand and.

In the meantime, the ruling Social Democrat-led minority coalition has made a deal with the opposition to tighten asylum rules and ask the EU to re-distribute some of the refugees to other countries.

“Sweden cannot take such a disproportionately large burden,” Prime Minister Stefan Lofven told Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter in an interview on Saturday.

Additionally, the government is going to adjust its budget so as to allocate additional funds to Sweden’s Migration Agency to cope with the refugee influx.

Sweden’s Migration Agency has recently claimed that, if immigration continues at the present rate, it would require an additional 29 billion Swedish crowns in 2016 and 41 billion in 2017, for a total request of 70 billion crowns or $8.41 billion, to deal with the unending inflow of asylum seekers, Reuters reports.

“There is a need for additional funding in order to be able to cope with costs the situation entails,” Director of Finance Anders Lundbeck said.

Meanwhile, the situation has led to growing tensions between different political forces in Sweden. On Friday, Justice and Migration Minister Morgan Johansson of the Social Democrats slammed the office of the nationalist Sweden Democrats (SD) party in the city of Lund for posting a list of future refugee shelters on Facebook.

“In a time when refugee centers are being set ablaze, the Sweden Democrats in the city of Lund put out addresses and a map of planned centers. Disgusting!” he wrote on Twitter.

Ted Ekeroth, spokesman for the Lund Sweden Democrats, dismissed the idea that publishing such information could increase the likelihood of new arsons.

However, the problem has already gone beyond the scope of pure political debates, as two people were killed and three more injured on Thursday in a racially motivated attack on a school in Trollhatan that has many immigrant pupils.

Several other schools in Sweden reportedly received threats the day after the incident.