In 2016, Sweden received 28,939 asylum seekers. Sweden is a predominantly Christian country in northern Europe, and yet most asylum seekers to Sweden came from three Muslim countries in the Middle East: Syria (5,459), Afghanistan (2,969) and Iraq (2,758). Why is it that people from these three Muslim countries choose to cross Europe to come to Sweden? What is it that Sweden offers that attracts people from the other side of the world?
It is not the major metropolises in Sweden that attract these people. 56% of Sweden's land area is covered by forest. Besides the Swedish capital Stockholm, there is no Swedish city with more than 1 million inhabitants. Sweden's average annual temperature is around 3°C (37.4°F), so it is not the weather that attracts tens of thousands of people from Muslim countries to Sweden.
What Sweden provides is economic and social benefits for all who come. Sweden is a country where the state pays newly-arrived migrants to encourage them to enter the community and seek jobs. If you receive a residence permit as a refugee, quota refugee or person with "subsidiary protection," you get up to $35 (308 SEK) a day, five days a week, if you participate in a so-called "establishment plan." So, the newly arrived migrant does not even have to work to get this money; the only thing he or she needs to do is to accept the help that the Public Employment Service provides. The newly-arrived migrant receives an "establishment allowance" (etableringsersättning) during his first two years in Sweden. After two years, the migrant is still entitled to all the benefits of the Swedish welfare state.
The migrants who receive this kind of establishment allowance can also get a supplementary establishment allowance (etableringstillägg) if they have children. They will get $91 a month (800 SEK) for each child under the age of 11, and $170 (1500 SEK) for each child who has reached the age of 11. A newly-arrived immigrant can get this supplementary establishment allowance for three children at most. If a newly-arrived immigrant has more than three children, then only the three oldest children count. The newly arrived immigrant can receive a maximum of $509 dollars (4500 SEK) a month through this supplementary establishment allowance.
So, if somebody lives in poverty in an Arab country and has several children, there is every reason to try to get a residence permit in Sweden. From the perspective of a poor migrant, that seems a lot of money to cash in, and one does not have to work a single day to get it. This makes Sweden a paradise for the migrants of the world who do not want to work. The Swedish taxpayer pays for this party.
If you accept the help of the Public Employment Service and start looking for a job, as a newly arrived migrant, you will also get help to pay the rent. If a newly arrived migrant has a rent of $396 (3500 SEK), the state pays $192 (1700 SEK). This is called the housing allowance (bostadsersättning).
It is not, however, only newly-arrived migrants with residence permits that receive economic and social benefits. Migrants who do not have residence permits also receive economic and social benefits. Since July 2013, immigrant children who live illegally in Sweden have the right to go to school.
In addition, also since July 2013, illegal immigrants have the right to state-funded health care, dental care, contraception counseling, and maternity care, as well as care in case of abortion. The illegal immigrant is also entitled to transportation to and from health care facilities, and also an interpreter. All children, in fact, who are living illegally in Sweden are offered the same health care and dental care, and under the same conditions, as children who are Swedish citizens.
The strange thing is that illegal immigrants pay lower fees for their medical and dental care than Swedish citizens pay. This is something that has upset many Swedish senior citizens, as 355,000 Swedish senior citizens live below the European Union's poverty line. It is not certain that these senior citizens can afford dental care at all, while at the same time, illegal immigrants receive dental care by paying a fee of $6 (50 SEK). In Malmö, Sweden's third largest city, the children of illegal immigrants receive full income support, and illegal migrants who have children have their entire rent paid by the municipality.
Since January 1, 2016, Sweden also has a law that offers children free medication. This law also applies to children seeking asylum in Sweden and children in Sweden illegally.
Children who come to Sweden and receive a residence permit further have the right to a "survivor pension" (efterlevandepension) if their parents have died. If the parents have never worked or lived in Sweden, the child will receive $167 (1477 SEK) per month, or $335 (2954 SEK) per month, if both parents are deceased. This is paid by the Swedish Pension Agency (Pensionsmyndigheten).
These are just some of the economic and social benefits that both legal and illegal migrants receive as soon as they set foot on Swedish soil.
So, if you live in an African country and want your child to go to school, Sweden will provide free education for your children, whether you have permission to stay in Sweden or not. If you are sick and cannot afford to go to the hospital, Sweden will provide free health care, whether you have the right to be in Sweden or not.
Recently, the city of Malmö bought 268 apartments with the taxpayers' money, so newly arrived migrants would have a roof over their heads. But at the same time, Swedish citizens have to wait more than three years in line to rent an apartment in Malmö. The reason that people from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq cross the entire European continent to come to Sweden is because Swedish politicians have given them every reason to come. From the day that a newly arrived migrant enters Sweden, the authorities at all levels of government throw money at him, with access to free health care and education. Why shouldn't he come? Sweden's current policies offer a free ticket to a better life for all poor migrants who come to Sweden, and the Swedish taxpayer foots the bill.
While migrants get all these benefits, there are not many obligations. Sweden is a multicultural society. This means that many of the migrants do not feel any loyalty to the Swedish culture, but retain their own culture within Swedish society. While Swedish taxpayers are forced to fund all these benefits for illegal and legal migrants, the migrants do not have to adapt to Swedish way of living. Instead, the Swedes not only have to pay for the migrants, but also seem required to adapt to them.
Meanwhile, Sweden has a critical shortage of police officers, which means that it is easy to commit crimes and get away with them. If one would, against all expectations, get caught, the punishment in Sweden is not harsh. If someone is convicted of rape, he would be incarcerated from two to six years. In 2015, the proportion of rapes where the police actually found the suspect was 14%. This means that in 86% of the rapes, the rapist got away. The police could simply not do their job because lack of resources and poor leadership.
Many might say that it is racist to associate migrants with sexual crimes. The Swedish police published a report in June 2016 which gave a status report of sexual abuse. In the report, one can read the following quote:
"In cases where the crimes were carried out by offenders in a larger group in public places and in public swimming pools the perpetrators have been mainly youngsters who have applied for or have recently received asylum in Sweden."
Although Sweden has a more restrictive immigration policy than the liberal migration policy it had before the migration crisis began, Sweden continues to have a welfare and integration policy towards newly arrived immigrants that functions as a magnet and draws less-educated immigrants to Sweden. Those who come to Sweden seem to be seeking a country that provides many entitlements but not many obligations. People seeking success go to the UK, Canada or the United States, while it often appears as if people who want to break the rules choose to come to Sweden.
As long as Sweden gives migrants all these benefits and demands so little back, Sweden will be the ideal country for the world's opportunists and freeloaders. The benefits of immigration, such as a well-educated workforce, economic growth and increased entrepreneurship, will not contribute to Sweden, because through its welfare and integration policies Sweden is attracting migrants who are either unwilling or unable to make an effort.
According to Eurostat figures from 2015, the unemployment rate among foreign nationals in Sweden was 20.1 percent, while Swedish citizens had an unemployment rate of 5.7 percent. Only three other countries in the European Union -- France, Spain and Greece -- had a higher unemployment rates among their foreign nationals than Sweden.
Among foreign nationals who were citizens of a non-EU country, Sweden had an unemployment rate of 29.3 percent. Only two other countries in the European Union -- Spain and Greece -- had a higher figure than Sweden. If you look at the unemployment rate among Sweden's own citizens, Sweden has EU's second-lowest unemployment rate.
Many would say that this might indicate that there is discrimination in the Swedish labor market. A major investigation (Långtidsutredningen 2015) by the Swedish Ministry of Finance, published in 2015, made the assessment that the Swedish labor market mainly rewards individuals' skills, and as a whole does not seem to be characterized by ethnic discrimination. The investigation also made the assessment that in many instances, persons who are born outside Sweden and have higher education from their countries of birth, need further education in Sweden to become established in the Swedish labor market.
The problem therefore is not discrimination; it is that migrants who come to Sweden lack the proper education to enter the Swedish labor market.
A restrictive immigration policy is not enough for Sweden. As long as Sweden has all these benefits for illegal immigrants and newly-arrived migrants, the most opportunistic and sometimes the most unmotivated migrants will make every effort to come.
Migrants who stay in Sweden even though they do not have permits should not be rewarded. Migrants should not get paid because they are accepting support from the government to find jobs. These kinds of benefits need to be phased out and eventually eliminated.
It needs to become clear that the responsibility for becoming integrated into the Swedish society rests entirely on the newly arrived migrants. Migrants who do not receive a residence permit should go home or somewhere else. If this does not happen, it could lead to a crisis for the Swedish welfare state and the social rights of the Swedish people. Many Swedes would say that this welfare crisis has already begun.
Nima Gholam Ali Pour is a member of the board of education in the Swedish city of Malmö and is engaged in several Swedish think tanks concerned with the Middle East. He is also editor for the social conservative website Situation Malmö. Gholam Ali Pour is the author of the Swedish book "Därför är mångkultur förtryck"("Why Multiculturalism is Oppression").