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8 Nov, 2015 12:42

Arson attacks on refugee camps 'polarize Swedish society'

Sweden is in turmoil over the refugee crisis. Dozens of facilities meant to house asylum seekers have been attacked by suspected arsonists, with the latest incident reported on Saturday.

An empty building was torched to the ground in Vastra Gotaland, in the southwest of the country, and the police are saying they suspect foul play. Several other buildings in a cluster were damaged.

Anti-immigrant sentiment has been growing stronger in Sweden over the past few years as reflected by the growing representation of far-right parties in legislatures, Adrian Groglopo, social science professor at the University of Gothenburg, told RT.

"The country is polarizing. On the one hand you have all those people who don't want immigrants and refugees, but on the other hand we have a strong part of the population that are helping immigrants and asylum seekers," he said.

"These terrorist attacks [carried out] by the far-right groups are of course shaking the basis of Swedish society," he added, referring to the arson attacks on refugee centers.

READ MORE: Sweden to refugees: Find a bed or go back to Germany… but don’t look for them at IKEA

Sweden is expecting up to 190,000 refugees to arrive by year's end, the biggest per capita inflow of all European countries. The government announced on Friday that it won't be able to accommodate further asylum seekers and asked them to stay in Germany.

While Sweden has yet to debate any policy changes that would make the Nordic country a less desirable destination for asylum seekers, if any, some of its neighbors have already done so. Denmark slashed benefits for refugees starting September by half, and in the first month the number of new arrivals went down to a level lower than in the same month in 2014.

"Many of them say that the conditions are better for them in other countries, perhaps Sweden, and so they go there," Kristian Thulesen Dahl, the leader of the right-wing Danish People's Party said, as cited by AFP. The party became the second-largest in the parliament in June and is an ally of Denmark's minority government.

Norway and Finland are in a similar position with anti-immigrant parties playing a part in their respective governments. Both are considering cuts for refugee benefits and tougher rules for getting residency.

"It's clear that the Nordic countries have generous welfare states, but we must ask ourselves if we should share them with those who come in," said Sweden's justice secretary of state, Joran Kallmyr, of the right-wing populist Progress Party.

Such measures, however, won't stop asylum seekers from trying to go to Europe, or maybe even the way they are distributed among European nations, experts say.

"Refugees are not coming here mainly to take advantage of the welfare state," Asle Toje, a Norwegian international relations expert, told The Local. "They are fleeing countries where there is war, conflict and hardship. So even if we reduce services, I don't think that will necessarily lessen the number of asylum seekers."