Citizens to Stay: Pro- And Anti-Migrant Mobilisations in Polarised Sweden
During the fall 2015, Sweden had a large increase of asylum seekers, following an out-break of a civil war in Syria. As a consequence, the absorption capacity of the Swedish municipalities was stretched in terms of eg.schooling and housing. The parties were internally divided, and subsequently the differences of opinions were apparent within the same political bloc and were mirrored by divisions in the electorate, and in the public debate.
In this paper, we aim to describe the migration flows to Sweden in, before and after this period. We ask what are the policy consequences and discursive reactions to current transformations in migration flows in the party-political landscape, civil society and in popular attitudes? We show that the refugee crisis enabled a strong mobilization of both pro- and anti-migration positions. Norms of displaying international solidarity prevail and show in mundane practices, but are challenged by more restrictive positions and attitudes, concerning migration and integration. Sweden is no longer exceptional.
To investigate this polarization in greater detail, we have revisited official statistics, party programs and conducted focus group interviews with three representatives of pro-migration organizations and three individual interviews in order to gain insights into mobilizing activities of both pro- and anti-migration movements.
First, this paper conveys information about the migration flows to Sweden, before, during and after the refugee crisis of 2015. In especially 2016 Sweden had a heavy intake of asylum seekers to Sweden, which prompted legislative measures to manage it. Second, we emphasize transformations in the party-political landscape before, under and after the refugee crisis of 2015. In this period there was a rhetorical shift in mainstream politics; i. e. an emphasis on security to protect the Swedish model, previous political positions perceived of as extreme became normalized. When representatives of the political mainstream signal to the voters that they have lost control of the situation, this enables previously extreme hostile attitudes towards immigrants to appear as more credible, more mainstream. Politicisation breeds mobilization. Third, we study actions and reactions in the civil society. Examples of progressive change and bottom-up initiatives (sanctioned from above) co-exist with anti-migration demonstrations that gain increased confidence when also mainstream voices signal that the situation is out of control.
By way of conclusion, the crisis enabled a window of opportunity for the mobilization of both pro- and anti-migration sentiments in civil society. This paper provides many examples of efforts of inclusion in the civil society; of offering immediate assistance to the incoming refugees and also engagement for more long-term commitments to facilitate integration. At the same time, restrictive policies on immigration were implemented and, rhetorically an emphasis on security to defend the Swedish model became ingrained in the political mainstream. The Swedish society has become more diverse than before, and the newly arrived refugees are rather here to stay, than to moving on.