Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Unfortunate Consequence of an Open Door Policy

Throughout the centuries, the Scandinavian people have been for the most part quite uniform in terms of the peoples and society. The stereotype that's been propagated throughout the years of the tall buck some blond haired and blue eyed inhabitants is not without some element of truth. Even today, a high percentage of the population is of fair complexion if one was to compare Scandinavian countries (namely, Sweden/Norway) to the rest of the world. Due either to geographic isolation or no requirement of immigration, up until the end of the second world war in Sweden you found swedes.

After the second world war now is a different story: Europe was in shambles with much of industrialized western Europe destroyed.

Those that made it through the war with little or no damage were immediately at an economic advantage. For instance the economy of the US skyrocketed with a huge global demand for not only raw materials but finished goods. The war contributed to the wealth that America now enjoys. Along those same lines however, Sweden chose neutrality during the war and played a more supportive role instead of picking sides. Flush with cash from the war and industry booming, there was suddenly a need for skilled workers such that could not be supplied domestically. With the first wave of immigration came further prosperity. These peoples were quick to assimilate and become part of Swedish society. Immigration in the eye's of the public worked for the betterment of everyone.

Now however comes the somber truth of the consequences of having an over liberalized immigration policy that worked initially for small numbers but like so many other things doesn't scale up when applied in excess. Due to recent world events and conflicts occurring throughout high tension zones such as Africa and the middle east during the last decades Sweden has made a noble effort to help the worlds populations by helping to resettle people in conflict ones here. With a huge land mass and (comparatively) small population there is little in terms of space preventing the swedes from accepting these people. With immigration comes the ability to bring skilled migrants to the country and further benefit society both economically and culturally.

But here is where it is my belief that things might not have gone all according to plan. With the number of asylum seekers and migrants growing exponentially over the last several years, the system that was in place was no longer designed to handle the demands placed upon it. Along with this instead of giving these migrants the proverbial training in HOW TO FISH, they were given handouts and learn to become dependent on the system. These migrants for the most part were coming from areas where English is perhaps not the commonly spoken language and it can be all but assured that Swedish was not taught to them growing up either. Along with the lack of language skills there comes a further upbringing that fundamentally differs from cultural norms and societal behavior that is taught (both directly and indirectly) growing up in Sweden. Mix all these ingredients in a blender and one ends up with a culture shock and a search for something that's familiar. People of similar upbringing tend to band together. When taking into account the high cost of both a place to live as well as costs for food, transportation etc. you start to get even more of a banding effect where recently it has been uncovered that there are some people living 6 or more to a one room apartment, many times that of its original design.

Being in a foreign land and not being able to communicate, the opportunities to provide for oneself becomes limited. Employers in Sweden want people that can communicate in Swedish or barring that a minimum of English. Lack of work amplifies the problem of poverty which compounds until the only way out seems to be resorting to crime. Suddenly the country that opened its doors to help, becomes the enemy, and its inhabitants the target.

Nothing is more telling then a recent news story by fox news in the States that chronicled the trials being faced by the government workers in Malmö when trying to help the residents there by providing them firefighting, ambulance and other government services below.

Coming from war torn regions of the world these people have learned to develop a fear for authority and disrespect for government. From their perspective government is not there to help but rather to control.

As logic dictates with this increase in crime comes assignment of blame and although a crime committed may not always be the act of someone that has immigrated here the public perception that develops is one that immigration is to blame.

I have personally spoken with many Swedes on this topic of immigration and although i don't claim to be an authority on the subject i do come from a country that has always been built on the principles that having a melting pot where people from around the world share their experiences will bring something unique to the table. In fact as Canadians have to hone the immigration policies for so long we have done a good job in making it work. For examples we have several laws to prevent racism and as immigration is somewhat of old news for Canadians, the mixing is widely accepted.

Here in Sweden due to the problems caused indirectly by insufficient immigration policies there is a slow but consistent resurgence in government parties who's platform is based on reducing and restricting immigration to Sweden. What may not be realized however is that Pandora's box has already been opened and a radical change to immigration will not solve the problems of the here and now.

One important question here is of course by what reasoning did Sweden believe they should create from scratch an immigration policy? Having been fortunate enough to travel to many parts o the world, i have seen first hand both culturally rich and multicultural regions. Similar cultural problems exist wherever you go with people that immigrate to a region wanting to bring with them their own cultures and traditions. In Canada there was recently a case of a 10 year old boy wanting to bring a ceremonial dagger to school as it represented devotion to his cultural beliefs. This case went all the way to the supreme court of Canada and his ability to do so finally struck down. On the other side of the globe a devote Muslim woman in Australia wanted the right to be able to have her Drivers License photo taken with all but her eyes covered as anything more would have gone beyond what was accepted by her beliefs. Once again common sense prevailed and its my guess that this person might be taking the bus instead of driving if she held steadfast in her beliefs.

Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel why not draw up on the experiences of several other countries that have been developing immigration policies over the last several decades? From there pull out the best of what has worked and adapt it to make it your own. This will not ensure success but it will help in demonstrating some predictability in the eventual outcome. Otherwise learning to manage the outcomes of an unrealistic policy will become necessary.

The Swedish word of the day is Invandrare, it means immigrant.