In September, I met with Ami Horowitz for an interview about Sweden and immigration, for a documentary he was making on the topic. Horowitz had heard of the work I had done on the issue, such as my reports in the Washington Examiner on the recent mass sexual attacks at music festivals in Sweden that the media and police covered up, as well as my essays on Sweden’s growing problem of jihadi tourism.

 

Horowitz and I met up in a sleepy Swedish town and spoke for almost half an hour, of which four minutes ended up in the final cut of his documentary, Stockholm Syndrome. The film also includes an interview with two Swedish policemen and the director’s own running commentary. The documentary received some attention at the time it was released, but not much more than the occasional link appearing in my newsfeed. But — as we now know — that has since changed.

 

President Trump mentioned Sweden in a speech in Florida on February 18. I first learned about it from my father, who called me early the next morning to ask whether I was perhaps involved in an international incident. As soon as I went on Twitter and saw the outrage, I started to connect the dots. After sifting through the many angry tweets, I could conclude that not only had the international media severely misconstrued what Donald Trump had said about Sweden but also that the newly elected president had put his finger on exactly what ails Sweden as well as the entire European continent. For the past week, I have been under tremendous pressure to rescind my statements and to swear off not only Amy Horowitz but also the entire premise that Sweden has problems relating to its immigration policies. Trump’s statement, however confusing, highlighted the most taboo topic in Swedish society and the well-oiled apparatus that does its utmost to keep it under wraps. And now that the world has its collective eye fixed on our country, the Swedish establishment is fighting hard to convey the party line.

 

Part of the reason for the outrage is that Sweden has a long-standing, complicated, love-hate relationship with the United States, defined by an equal mix of envy and distain — the U.S. being both that place we are better than and the country we secretly long to be. Sweden’s self-image is that of a country with solid liberal values, institutionalized equality, and social justice. Having an American president question that is a direct affront to the one thing we had going for us: our carefully cultivated sense of moral and intellectual superiority. The solution to this conundrum is to belittle and mock President Trump, making him seem ignorant and racist, poking fun at his statements through a barrage of colorful memes. But what all of these methods fail to address is the underlying issue and the truth at the heart of the president’s words.

 

As Swedish-Iranian economist Tino Sanandaji observed at NRO last week, we see a remarkable lack of statistics showing a correlation between immigration and crime in Sweden — not because there is no such correlation, but because there are no statistics. There are no statistics because the government has consistently chosen not to release them or bring the issue to light. This secrecy has sparked the rise of a populist right in Sweden, and it has also failed the most vulnerable — the immigrants subjected to extremism and crime in urban neighborhoods where the pundits and politicians never go — sacrificing them on the altar of political correctness. Because the truth is that Donald Trump was right to compare the Swedish crisis to that of the rest of Europe, and the reactions to his words were out of panic rather than persuasion. Something has come undone in Sweden, and that is the fault not of an American president but of the failed policies of the political establishment, going on 25 years. The results of these policies are now visible in individual lives and on city streets, and we see them clearly in ballots. The far-right party Sverigedemokraterna (The Sweden Democrats) has tripled in popularity in three elections and is now the second-largest party in the country. Most of the votes it has gained have migrated from the Social Democrats, the working-class party, suggesting that the political climate in Sweden is far less removed from its American counterpart than the Swedish political and intellectual establishment would have us believe.

 

The truth is that Donald Trump was right to compare the Swedish crisis to that of the rest of Europe, and the reactions to his words were out of panic rather than persuasion.
While Sweden is not, as hyperbolic far-right sites claim, the “rape capitol of the world,” it is suffering from a serious social and economic crisis that is related to the influx of immigrants. It’s not anti-immigrant to debate this and to criticize the policies that led to this crisis; it’s a defense of classic liberal values at a time when they are under attack. In 2015 and 2016, Sweden took in 150,000 immigrants from countries whose populations have views on women, sexuality, equality, and the separation of church and state that are starkly different from the views that Swedish society claims to protect and uphold. There is an inevitable clash of values, and the refusal to acknowledge that clash is only intensifying it, victimizing those who are least likely to have their voices heard. We now find ourselves with societies within the society, policed by gangs and plagued by violence; we see honor killings on the rise, sexual assaults being covered up by the police and the media, and public bathhouses gender-segregated to accommodate religious fervor. These are issues that deserve to be brought to light, and refusing to do so does nothing but spread the darkness.

 

In the week since Trump’s infamous Sweden-gate, I have reflected on the irony of the Swedish media’s criticizing him for silencing certain media outlets — after all, conservative voices in Sweden have been consistently silenced for as long as I can remember. And rather than face the evident problems caused by systemic political mismanagement in Sweden, the establishment is using President Trump as a bogey man; he is a welcome diversion from the failure of its own ideological paradigm. Swedish pundits and politicians are now describing a war between two images of Sweden, but that very thesis perfectly encapsulates the core of the problem. Sweden is not the dystopian hell shown in Horowitz’s documentary, but it is also not the perfect liberal society touted by people furiously defending Swedish honor from Trumpian insults.

 

 

A country with two such competing images of itself is in danger of becoming exactly what it condemns in others: a propaganda machine in defense of a false narrative. Since the beginning of the immigration crisis, Sweden has cut 950 million U.S. dollars from its foreign aid to allocate to immigration services, and much more will have to be cut from other welfare programs to deal with a projected massive influx of refugees. No available studies show the current immigration as anything but a net loss for the country. The idea that immigration is noble has become a truth in Sweden and in much of Europe, and any critique against it is interpreted as racism. In this climate, we close our eyes to real solutions, such as devoting resources (military or financial or both) to aid individuals where they are. Western nations are now, at great expense, creating a problem within their own borders — to fulfill some sort of idea of themselves as being “good” countries — rather than doing actual good elsewhere.

 

Europe is not dealing with the reason for the immigration crisis but is only delaying its solution indefinitely. On November 12, 2015, the Swedish government announced that it would reinstate border control for the first time since joining the Schengen Agreement in 1996, a treaty that led to the creation of Schengen Area in Europe in which internal border checks have largely been abolished. In restoring border control, Sweden cited “threats to inner order and security.”
This action, while sudden and drastic, does not change the right to seek asylum, nor is it guaranteed to stop or even lessen the influx or relieve the acute costs of settling refugees. If we go by the current estimates, Sweden in two years will spend on immigration alone the equivalent of two annual defense budgets or the entire cost of unemployment benefits. There are no signs that the number of immigrants will diminish, and there is no plan to cut federal costs or raise taxes to pay for this.

 

Our country is currently operating at a loss, both economically and socially, and the biggest losers are those farthest from the halls of power and the newsrooms that laud this failure as a success. That is why I stand by my statements in Ami Horowitz’s documentary and why I give President Trump credit for putting his finger on the issue we’ve been avoiding for far too long. The Swedish debate on immigration is so contentious that even relaying statistics can lead to one’s being branded a bigot, which might be why journalists and politicians often insist that immigration is good for the country, creating jobs and paying for itself in the long run. When the reality of people’s daily life fails to comport with the picture painted by reporters and lawmakers, it creates a disconnect between the people and the powerful, and it stokes anger among voters. The ongoing crisis is changing the political landscape, intensifying social tensions and causing a rise in crime — eerily reminiscent of days past. The inability to address the root cause of the problem or even to utter its name is pushing Sweden toward disaster, full steam ahead.

 

After World War II, Europe rejected borders and decided on a brave new world, based on an idea. What European leaders failed to understand, though, is that no matter how much they wished that the divisions had forever died in the war, the divisions still mattered. What we are now witnessing is a continent scrambling to rebuild something it long ago deemed obsolete. Trump won, at least in part, because he recognized that a nation has a right to control its borders. Europe is losing its soul as a result of its denial, giving up on a liberalism that has been its essence since the Enlightenment.
The immigration crisis highlights the grave problems in Sweden’s and Europe’s immigration policies, problems that may very well cause the eventual dissolution of the EU.
The European peace project has ended up exacerbating the refugee crisis while abandoning the Syrian people on the ground, the Kurds in the hills, and the children dying to reach a European dream — a dream that never really existed beyond the pages of a post-war manifesto.

 

This article was first published in National Review

They canceled Jewish winter camp. It sounds like a little thing, but in Sweden, where we have very few venues in which to lead our Jewish lives, it means a great deal. Winter camp is a yearly highlight, a place where our children can learn and play with other Jewish children, without worry. This year, they won’t be able to go, and for a simple reason—because it’s not safe. […]

Here in Stockholm this fall, we in the Jewish community have enjoyed our 21st annual Jewish film festival, a klezmer concert, and a number of other cultural diversions. I choose the word “diversions” advisedly. It’s thanks to such entertainments that so many of my fellow Jews can allow themselves to say that we’re doing okay here—that there’s no need to rock the boat or cause trouble.

But you know what? We are not okay, and this is not okay. […]

Citing threats to “inner order and security,” Sweden announced this week that it would reassert control of its borders. For decades, Sweden has been known for its generous asylum policy. Only the relative difficulty of getting to the geographically isolated and historically homogenous kingdom kept the flow of refugees at a manageable level. In the 1980s, Sweden welcomed approximately 25,000 asylum seekers every year. In a single week last month, however, 16,000 individuals from the Middle East and North Africa sought entry, throwing this nation of 9.5 million people into full-blown crisis.

Prior to entering the European Union in 1995, Sweden balanced its generous asylum policies with an onerous visa system. Like most European countries, it refused to grant visas to individuals from countries suffering from “unrest,” and it imposed hefty fines on any airline or shipping company transporting individuals from such countries. After entering the E.U., however, Sweden became subject to the terms of the Schengen Agreement, which abolished Europe’s internal border controls. Migrants who made it to Italy or Greece could travel within Europe to the most generous countries—such as Sweden—and apply for asylum there.

Last month, the Swedish Migration Agency released its official immigration projections for the next two years. In 2015, the agency said, 190,000 individuals are expected to arrive in Sweden—nearly triple what the agency had projected a few months earlier. The agency estimated that it would cost $3.5 billion to manage the influx, a cost that could reach as much as $8.6 billion by 2017. The Swedish government wants to finance the cost of resettling these asylum-seekers through loans and by raising municipal taxes.

If the influx was overwhelming, Sweden had only itself to blame. Until this week’s announcement, the government in Stockholm had elected not to enforce the Dublin regulation, an E.U. law stating that a refugee has to apply for asylum in the first European country he or she sets foot in. This meant that Sweden didn’t send asylum seekers back to the countries where they first arrived in Europe, instead allowing the application process to begin in Sweden. In the interim, the applicant had full access to Sweden’s social-welfare system, including health care and education, even if he or she was living underground. Most asylum seekers who have made it to Sweden have done so illegally, usually by paying someone to smuggle them in.

Where are these migrants coming from, and why now? Many reports suggest that the civil war in Syria is responsible for the surge, but in fact, just 34 percent of the mostly young, mostly male asylum seekers pouring into Sweden are Syrian. Unaccompanied adolescent males from Afghanistan make up the largest cohort. During the 13-year, American-led war in Afghanistan, a total of 1,000 Afghan immigrants arrived in Sweden; during a single week this past October, 2,000 came. They’re not fleeing war. They’re responding to incentives—Sweden’s generous system of social benefits coupled with Europe’s open invitation to come.

In Sweden, as in much of Europe, skepticism about this open-door policy is interpreted as racism. Sweden recently cut $950 million from its foreign-aid budget. Those funds will now go toward dealing with the massive influx of refugees. The scale of the crisis is likely to require more cuts from other welfare programs.

Malmö, the Swedish city with the highest concentration of immigrants, offers a glimpse of what the future holds. Already essentially bankrupt, Malmö stays afloat thanks to a yearly $600 million bailout from the federal government. It consistently ranks as the worst Swedish city for income, education, employment, and quality of life. Without help from Stockholm, Malmö’s structural deficit would exceed Greece’s. And yet, even with such a cautionary example to learn from, Sweden has no plan. In two years, the country will spend the equivalent of two defense budgets—or the entire cost of unemployment benefits for the current population—on welfare for new immigrants. The government has not announced which spending programs it will cut or taxes it will raise to pay for it.

What’s happening in Sweden, and in Europe as a whole, is not a refugee crisis but a migration crisis, one caused less by world events than by Sweden’s generous welfare system and Europe’s open-border policy.

 

This article was first published in City Journal