Saturday, 28 November 2015 00:00 Published in Commentary
Malmo — Aneta Moura, who emigrated to Sweden from Greece 43 years ago, says the last ethnic Swede has moved off her street in Malmo’s Rosengard neighborhood and youths with nothing to do hang out on the streets at all hours.
“I no longer know any of my neighbors,” laments 81-year-old Moura.
Growing segregation between ethnic Swedes and immigrants is emerging as a major concern in Sweden, a country that has for decades prided itself on its egalitarian ideals and where most low-skilled jobs have been eliminated in a bid to do away with much of the “class society” that went with them.
The country’s inability to integrate immigrants is preoccupying the Swedish public and policymakers now that Sweden is taking in record numbers of refugees who will eventually need to find work to become fully-fledged active members of society.
Many wonder what kind of jobs these new immigrants — many of whom are uneducated, some even illiterate — will be able to hold down in Sweden’s knowledge-intensive labor market.
Moura, who came to Sweden to work in its booming factories half a century ago, says the loss of manufacturing jobs has made it harder for newcomers to integrate.
“We have a lot of youths standing on the streets all night right where I live,” she said.
The Scandinavian country has long been Europe’s top destination for asylum seekers per capita, with a record 190,000 applications expected this year.
As the country’s public services strain to cope with the influx, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven this week announced a drastic tightening of Swedish asylum rules to stem the flow of migrants.
In addition to job woes, immigrants trying to rebuild their lives here face a slew of obstacles to their integration.
They include learning the language, finding housing amid shortages in big cities and rising anti-immigration sentiment with the far-right Sweden Democrats garnering up to 27 percent of voter sympathies in recent polls.
Half of all refugees in Sweden are unemployed after seven years and only 60 percent find work after 15 years, according to Statistics Sweden.
“What we previously thought was a good thing about Sweden — eliminating simple jobs... is now our biggest challenge when people from other countries arrive,” said Andreas Bergh, an associate professor of economics at Lund University.
“Unfortunately those types of jobs are exactly what you need for immigrants from poorer countries with less education to quickly enter the job market,” he said.
Unemployed immigrants on the margins of society run counter to Sweden’s aim to provide equal opportunities for everyone to belong to the educated, professional sector.
In Sweden, for instance, daycare is heavily subsidised to enable all women to hold down jobs, which eight out of 10 do; child allowances are the same for everyone regardless of need; rent control is widespread; university education is free; and the country has a narrow gap between the highest and lowest wages.
In Malmo, Sweden’s third largest city, 43 percent of the population comes from an immigrant background.
With growing numbers of refugees from countries like Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan, dozens of neighborhoods like Rosengard have seen relative poverty levels rise and housing conditions deteriorate.
In 38 immigrant-heavy suburbs, the average disposable income dropped from 83.8 percent of the national average in 1997 to 69.7 percent in 2014, the left-leaning Verdandi group said in a recent report.
Sweden is often rated in global surveys as one of the most tolerant countries on earth, but some say that tolerance for other cultures could actually be one of the causes of segregation.
Aje Carlbom, an anthropologist at Malmo University who lived in Rosengard as part of a project, criticised the country’s policy of multiculturalism, which he said had encouraged immigrants “not just to keep, but even develop their own cultures.”
“People get stuck in a type of ethnic network that makes it very hard to get contacts within the rest of society,” he said.
And frustration is growing over immigrants’ difficulties to integrate — even among immigrants.
“The politicians should first think about the people who are (already) here” before taking in more migrants, Moura complained.
Politicians have tried to get more immigrants into the job market by launching numerous educational projects and paid internships.
But Syed Masroor Ahmad, a 45-year-old of Pakistani origin, said Sweden’s work placement schemes don’t work.
People get offered “internships for one, two or three months, but after that they don’t offer them a job,” he said.
For some employers, the question becomes why they should hire someone like Ahmad for a full, relatively high Swedish salary, when they can easily replace him with another intern whose paycheck is subsidised by the government.
Some are however trying to make the most of the situation.
Outside the Rosengard job centre, 20-year-old Ehssan Alla al-Den Abbas, born and raised in Rosengard, said the refugee influx could mean job opportunities.
“I’m applying for all kinds of things. It would be good if I could get a job helping refugees,” he said.
Friday, 27 November 2015 00:00 Published in Commentary
Brussels, Belgium — Belgium is battling accusations that it has become a “failed state” whose linguistic and communal divisions contributed to failures that let it become a jihadist base for the Paris attacks.
Years of increasing federalism have deepened rifts between the wealthy country’s French-, Flemish- and German-speaking regions, leaving it with little sense of nationhood and a dysfunctional, multi-layered bureaucracy.
A brief moment of unity in the face of its own terror alert in Brussels merely papered over the underlying problems that made Belgium unable to dismantle a leading European jihadist hotspot that produced two of the Paris attackers.
Internationally there has been harsh criticism since French President Francois Hollande said that the Paris attacks which killed 130 people were “planned in Syria, prepared and organized in Belgium.”
French newspaper Le Monde warned in an editorial this week that “this state without a nation risks becoming a nation without a state.”
Politico Europe commentator Tim King went even further, saying “Belgium is a failed state” while Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper dubbed it “Belgistan.”
“The problem is that in Belgium you have a federal police force, but generally the police are from local forces. So the powers of the interior minister exist but are limited, and that poses political problems,” analyst Claude Moniquet told AFP.
Belgium is a relatively modern invention, born in 1830 as an independent state to act as a buffer between France and Germany.
It is now an uneasy mix of a Flemish-speaking, more conservative north and a French-speaking, poorer left-leaning south with a small German-speaking population near the border.
But any illusion of political unity on the terrorism issue was shattered on Tuesday, when the main Flemish nationalist party accused the francophone socialist party of “Islamo-socialism” and failing to counter radicalism.
“Twenty years of laxity by the Socialist Party and of Islamo-socialism have brought us where we are today, with Brussels as the rear base for Islamic barbarism,” lawmaker Karl Vanlouwe, whose N-VA party is part of the coalition government of Prime Minister Charles Michel, said in a vitriolic article in the newspaper Le Soir.
His criticisms focused on the run-down Brussels district of Molenbeek, which was home to at least three of the Paris attack suspects and been branded a haven for jihadists by the government.
The former socialist mayor of Molenbeek from 1992 to 2012, Philippe Moureaux, has been accused of turning a blind eye to the march of radicalism in the area.
Hassan Bousetta, a specialist on the politics of integration from Belgium’s Liege University, said that the problem was a wider one involving a “profile of disaffected young men of Moroccan or Algerian origin” in an area of high unemployment that the Belgian state had failed to tackle.
“The absence of strong links within a community generates jihadism,” he told AFP.
The fragmented state is ill-equipped to deal with many problems.
Belgium after all holds the world record for the longest period that a country has gone without a government — 541 days after elections in 2010.
Police operations are hampered by the fact that Brussels has 19 mayors and six different district police chiefs for the capital, with whom everything must be coordinated in different languages.
The system leads to moments of surreal bureaucracy, such as the fact that Brussels airport remained on a level three terror alert while the city itself was on the highest level of four, because the airport is officially in the Flemish-speaking region that surrounds the capital.
Le Monde said that Belgium had shown “too much tolerance” and was “prisoner to an institutional debate which one could have found picturesque but is now turning tragic.”
Belgium’s La Libre newspaper reacted angrily, saying that “French condescension knows no limits,” but admitted that criticisms would be easier to accept “if it was a state that was a model of coexistence and integration.”
Migration and multiculturalism expert Andrea Rea said many of the domestic criticisms of the Belgian system’s dysfunctionality were more about political point-scoring and the rivalry between the Flemish separatists and the French-speaking socialists than reality.
NEW YORK — The Philadelphia 76ers equaled the record for the worst losing streak in National Basketball Association history on Wednesday, suffering a last-gasp defeat against Boston to chalk up their 26th consecutive loss.
The 76ers led heading into the final minutes, but were overhauled by a late rally from the Celtics, who scraped home 84-80 as Philadelphia's miserable campaign continued.
Jae Crowder sank a three-pointer with 38.5 seconds left on the clock as Boston produced an 18-3 points rally to win having trailed by 11 points midway through the third quarter.
Philadelphia had led 80-75 with 2:51 left in the game, only to watch as Boston reeled off the final nine points of the match to snatch victory.
The 76ers were left ruing an inability to preserve possession when it counted, finishing with 19 turnovers.
"There's no excuse for that," former Celtics guard Phil Pressey said.
The 76ers are now 0-16 for the season, and combined with 10 straight losses last year now have a share of the record for the worst string of defeats in history.
The 2013-14 76ers were the last side to lose 26 straight, a feat emulated by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2010-11.
Two more defeats in their next games against Houston on Friday and Memphis on Sunday will take them to 0-18, equaling the worst ever start to an NBA season, set by the New Jersey Nets in 2009-10.
The 76ers' last victory in a regular season game came against the Denver Nuggets in March.
Elsewhere on Wednesday, LeBron James scored 24 points to pass another points milestone but it was not enough to prevent the Cleveland Cavaliers tumbling to a 103-99 loss to the Toronto Raptors.
James passed Reggie Miller to move into 18th place in the all-time NBA scoring lists with a free throw on his sixth point of the game.
However James' points benchmark was a footnote to a polished performance from Toronto, with guard Kyle Lowry outstanding with a 27-point haul.
It was the third win in a row for the Raptors, who improved to 10-6 as their Eastern Conference rivals fell to 11-4.
Meanwhile, Kevin Durant's smooth return from injury continued as the Oklahoma City Thunder swept away the Brooklyn Nets 110-99 in Oklahoma.
Durant, playing only his second game since returning from a hamstring strain, piled up 30 points in a decisive win for Thunder, a third consecutive victory which saw them move to 10-6.
Durant sunk 11 of 18 shots from the field while contributing five assists and six rebounds. Russell Westbrook added 27 points, 13 assists and six rebounds.
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