Management, authorities 'ignored' warnings at Swedish center where refugee killed worker
A therapist working at a juvenile asylum seekers’ center, where a 15-year-old boy stabbed a care worker on Monday, has said its owners and the authorities had been warned of danger to staff over a year ago, but certified the facility as “flawless” anyway.
“So far nothing serious has happened, but it will do,” a therapist, who has chosen to remain anonymous, told management back in December 2014, according to Göteborgs Tidning newspaper.
The housing center on the outskirts of Gothenburg, where 22-year-old Alexandra Mezher was killed, is operated by Living Nordic, a private company, on behalf of the Swedish government. The therapist said that since opening in September 2014, it had been a victim of staff cuts, so care workers were often the only adult supervising ten 14 to 17 year-olds, in contravention of best practices for such institutions.
“The question of lone working at night was discussed with management several times. The management did not help, they are not listening,” said the therapist.
Despite carrying out three inspections, at least one of which was unannounced, the Department of Healthcare wrote that they had “found no deficiencies” with the “flawless” housing center, even though it mentioned that personnel had complained about understaffing.
A child of Lebanese immigrants herself, Mezher, a social sciences graduate whose dissertation was on helping criminals reform, was ambushed and reportedly stabbed by the teenager at 8 am, about an hour before she was to finish her night shift. Two other teens reportedly restrained him until police arrived.
Rather than being held in a youth detention center, as is common for young criminals, the suspect is being kept in a jail and will stand trial as an adult – as is required by Swedish law for anyone aged 15 or above. However, police admit that although the perpetrator has been identified as a Somali they are unsure of his identity, criminal record, or even age.
“He is not known by the police and has not been arrested before. But there is always a variable of uncertainty about these kids’ identity. We don´t know anything about the boy’s family. We have not even established his identity with a 100 percent certainty yet,” Gothenburg police told the Daily Mail.
The incident has become a public test for Sweden’s immigration system, which has been put under extreme pressure by Europe’s migrant crisis.
Last year over 160,000 refugees arrived in Sweden, of whom more than 35,000 claimed to be unaccompanied minors. Although Swedish police do not record the ethnicity of criminals, so it is difficult to understand their impact on society as a whole, the official number of crimes at asylum centers alone totaled 322 in 2015, more than double the number from the previous year.
The perception of Sweden’s ability to deal with foreign offenders was dealt another blow on Wednesday, when Aftonbladet newspaper reported that a 16-year-old convicted for gang-raping a Swedish woman in Stockholm last summer had escaped from his juvenile detention facility.
The country’s left-center Prime Minister, Stefan Lofven, has cautioned against stigmatizing incomers, saying it was “too early” to draw conclusions about the Gothenburg stabbing, noting that many children arriving in Sweden had been “traumatized.”
However, Mezher’s relatives have been quick to condemn authorities for refusing to face up to the scale of the immigrant problem in a country that takes in more refugees per capita than any other in Europe.
“It’s obvious: I put the full responsibility on the government. I’m losing faith in all of this. They are taking more and more refugees, they are destroying the country. Even destroying the whole of Europe,” Mezher’s cousin, Shaaban Aoun, told RT.
The police have also been increasingly forthright about their inability to cope, with the commissioner calling for an additional 4,100 recruits to deal with rising crime levels. Stockholm police have also warned that its central station has become “unsafe” due to gangs of underage pickpockets, and say there are gangs of immigrant gropers and rapists roaming the streets of the country’s capital.