After Escaping War, Asylum Seekers in Sweden Now Face Arson Attacks
TEHRAN (Tasnim) - Throughout Europe's migrant crisis, Sweden has laid out the welcome mat for tens of thousands of asylum seekers. But in towns like Munkedal and other small communities, someone has replaced it with death threats and arson.
For all Sweden's self-proclaimed role as a "humanitarian superpower", many of the new arrivals dotted around the country are living in fear after a wave of unsolved attacks on asylum centres, Reuters reports.
One such is Mustafa, a computer student from Gaza who arrived just over a week ago at the reception centre in Munkedal, which lies amid the forests and farmland of southwestern Sweden.
"For one day I felt safe," said Mustafa. "The day after my arrival, the house burned down."
When the centre housing 14 asylum seekers in a forest clearing went up in flames, the occupants had to escape through a window and shelter in a nearby building. Now they patrol the area in nearly sub-zero temperatures each night, using only the dim lights of mobile phones to peer into the forest for any intruder bent on destroying their temporary home.
The Munkedal blaze was just one of more than a dozen at centres across Sweden in the past month - some confirmed as arson attacks and others suspected as such - that the police are struggling to solve as the country expects to take in up to a record 190,000 asylum seekers this year.
While no one has died in the fires, a sword-wielding masked man killed two people and wounded two others last month in a racist killing spree at a largely immigrant school in Trollhattan, a short drive from Munkedal.
With fewer than 10 million people, Sweden has received proportionately more asylum seekers than any other European Union country, as huge numbers of people escaping war and poverty head north across the continent.
Sweden's Migration Agency is now keeping secret the locations of new centres, where asylum seekers live while their applications are processed, fearing new attacks.
UN Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein warned last month that politicians in Europe who use derogatory language about migrants may ultimately be responsible for causing violence.
Ihab Nasser, who came to Sweden earlier this year from Eritrea, is one of those in Munkedal who spends the night peering into the forest away frond the town's street lights.
"We're terrified. We take turns to sleep and there's always someone keeping guard," he said.