Been Driving Refugees

In the past couple of months Sweden has started to receive large numbers of refugees from Syria, Iraq and a few other war-torn Middle-eastern countries. The ones who claim the right of political asylum are adequately cared for by the immigration authorities. But many don't claim that right. They may have more or less accurate information about other countries that offer better chances, so when they get off the train at Stockholm Central Station, they're basically tourists in the eyes of the law. And the municipality hasn't been able to care for them. Instead a major volunteer movement has sprouted, working to offer transit refugees food, housing, clothes, medical care and legal advice. To give an idea of how big this is, the main Facebook group for these volunteers has 16,400 members.

I don't read much news and I'm not much of an activist. So I've joined the volunteer ranks late, being motivated particularly by the realisation that for several weeks the biggest housing establishment for transit refugees has been in my home municipality, right across the street from the County Museum and the community arts centre. It looks like a refugee camp in a hangar-like techno club. Because that's what it is.

I know of course in abstract that Sweden receives a healthy number of refugees per capita et annum. And I live in a cosmopolitan suburb where many of my neighbours must have come here once as refugees. But wealthy conservative-governed Nacka municipality is hardly involved at all in the initial care of them as they arrive. So seeing tired and confused people with big bags and nowhere to go is big news to me. It's as if world history has suddenly showed up in my back yard after half a lifetime of political complacency. It's been over 200 years since the Kingdom of Sweden was in a state of war. And I find that volunteering at a refugee centre beats the hell out of spending your evenings reading a humdrum e-book.

For the past few days I've mainly served as a driver, making good use of what years of geocaching around Stockholm has taught me about finding my way around. And I've rediscovered the joy of working together with new acquaintances for a common project, like we used to for much more playful purposes in the Tolkien Society.

So many new impressions.

  • The refugees are mostly young or middle-aged men.
  • They travel in small groups which do not like to get separated.
  • They're in good physical shape and seem relieved to have reached Sweden.
  • Young Swedified second-generation immigrants of both genders form a major part of the volunteer effort.
  • The big Sunnite mosque in central Stockholm is also housing lots of people.
  • The little Shiite mosque in Alby offered to help and was asked to cook dinner for 200 people. They delivered dinner for 350. One young guy explained to me, “We're Shiites, this is our thing: we like to cook lots of food for pilgrims several times a year.”
  • Most have no clear idea about where to go. Many follow an apparently outdated rumour that says Finland has accommodating laws, but they aren't allowed on the ferry from Stockholm to Helsinki. So they take the train all the way to Haparanda at the far end of the Gulf of Botnia and walk across the Torne river bridge to Finland.
  • One guy asked me about the relative merits of Sweden and Ireland (!?) as countries of asylum. One volunteer told me his twelve-year-old nephew had been asked for similar advice by a refugee.
  • One guy had spent seven years making pizza in Berlin and spoke way better German than I do.
  • And though my own input into the relief effort has been quite modest, I am very proud of how my fellow stockholmers are responding. They're donating time, money and goods, and they're making a big impression on the refugees. I've lost count of the recent arrivals who have told me in broken English that they think Sweden is a great country.
  • But don't donate flavoured teabags. Syrians and Iraqis are sensible people who recognise that tea is one plant and that it should not be adulterated with feckin' flower petals.

Here's good advice on how people in Stockholm can help.

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I know of course in abstract that Sweden receives a healthy number of refugees per capita et annum.

I saw some statistics within the last month--I didn't save the link--to the effect that Sweden is not only top per capita in Europe for taking in refugees (by a large margin), but they are second in absolute numbers. Germany, which has about 10 times the population of Sweden, has taken in 10-20% more in absolute numbers.

The US, of course, isn't pulling their (our) weight. Too many Americans are blindly afraid of people from the Middle East, and too many American politicians are catering to those fears. Donald Trump now says he wants to send any Syrian refugees who reach the US back to Syria. Of course, many of the American voters and politicians in question were so gung ho to start a war in Iraq in 2003, which war is one of the major causes of this refugee crisis. Hell, we aren't even taking in people who have served as translators for our armed forces. There is no excuse for that kind of cowardice.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 02 Oct 2015 #permalink

Way to throw your country under the bus. The Europeans laugh with glee when Americans talk smack about our country. Most of these "immigrants" are not even Syrian war refugees, but "economic" refugees from other N.African countries ,and as the article said, even Europe. Also, they are able bodied men who have left the woean behind to flee the defense of their own country, which is probably what you would do if the USA was invaded, which if you Libs have your way, is exactly what will happen.

Sweden has a population deficit. Able-bodied and often well educated Syrians are a valuable resource. The women will also come when they can.

Indeed, in any population flow its usually the grown men who come first, because they are fit for the journey and have the best chance of finding work which would let them bring the rest of their family. That has generally been the case in Canadian history, with one or two exceptions like the settlement of the prairies in the 19th century where the government encouraged whole villages to come.

This is a slightly difficult issue for me since I am a temporary resident in the Schengen zone. But when 18% of the population of Canada are immigrants, its hard to see how a few million refugees arriving over the course of a few years should be a serious problem for the hundreds of millions of people living in the Schengen zone. (The present government of Canada has not been handling the crises in the Arab world and the horn of Africa very well, but fortunately I =can= vote in Canada and there is a federal election this month).

Martin, I think that your spam trap ate my first comment.

Another thing which occurs to me is that in the Anglosphere it has become normal to drop out of groups or activities which take an uncomfortable turn rather than organize for reform. So I have trouble blaming Syrians for fleeing, rather than trying to form yet another militia and somehow prevent it from being crushed and absorbed by one of the major factions, or taken over by one of several kinds of thug. From news reports, eventually most of the secular resistance groups had a few truckloads of Islamists drive up to their headquarters and give them the choices of being killed or joining the Islamist group.

"Sweden has a population deficit."

What you probably mean is relatively too many young people. "Population deficit" in absolute numbers makes no sense.

One often hears this argument in relation to immigration, but it is wrong on many levels. First, most people who use it would welcome immigration even if there weren't a "population deficit". Second, they usually also welcome those who are not able-bodied and not well educated. Third, in relation to "normal" immigration, as opposed to refugees (though at least some "refugees" are "normal" immigrant making use of the bandwagon), practically the worst policy one can have with regard to third-world development is to attract the "good" (i.e. able-bodied and well educated) people away from their country, where they could perhaps improve things. At least they have a better chance than cripples and badly educated. And guess what? The new country doesn't even have to pay for their education. It is also hoped that by bringing in more young people this will be good for things like pensions which, directly or indirectly, are financed by the young for the old. But either the immigrants will become well integrated or they won't. If they don't, then one has all the problems of a parallel society. If they do, they will have as few children of the Swedes, and your generation has merely postponed the problem to future generations, in general not a good policy.

I'm also a sceptic, an atheist, and consider myself on the political left. Both my wife and I immigrated to Germany as adults from non-EU countries. We also both speak Swedish (among many other languages). Needless to say, I'm not some sort of anti-immigrant neo-Nazi. But I am amazed that my arguments above are hardly even discussed among the left-wing parts of society, much less understood.

On a similar note, wherever you stand on this and related issues, why does no-one notice the contradiction between battling the smugglers and welcoming refugees? Most refugees, and most recognized asylum seekers, wouldn't be where they are were it not for the smugglers. At most, one can say that the smugglers make a profit from other people's misery in an exorbitant manner. But if one wants to stop them, then one has to organize the refugee transport oneself. It is highly cynical to offer refuge only to those who are rich enough to afford the journey (and able to do it, i.e. not crippled, not in prison, etc) and/or after they enter the country of refuge illegally.

Discuss. :-)

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 05 Oct 2015 #permalink

" too many young people" ---> "too few young people

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 05 Oct 2015 #permalink

Population deficit in relation to the country's domestic and industrial infrastructure. We don't want to go back to a Mesolithic population density.

OK, but Sweden hasn't had a mesolithic population density since, well, mesolithic times. Are you implying that the domestic and industrial infrastructure is somehow overblown? If so, why? In the last 100 years, the population has been steadily increasing.

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 05 Oct 2015 #permalink

Fertility rates in Europe generally, as well as the US, China, and Japan, are below replacement rates. China enforces this via the one-child policy, but I hear they are thinking of relaxing the rule because it has had the desired effect. The US population is still growing due to large numbers of immigrants, and the fact that said immigrants are more likely to be of childbearing years (it also has the highest fertility rate among developed nations, just short of replacement). Japan is faring the worst, because they accept very few immigrants due to a high degree of cultural chauvinism (they can be worse than Americans at that). The ex-USSR has had problems with falling population since before Gorbachev took over, and part of Russia's continuing economic trouble is correlated with their best and brightest moving to the West. So there is some merit to the idea of Europe taking in people from elsewhere to help maintain population.

Not that taking in large numbers of refugees doesn't have its problems, but when you look at the problems of Japan and Russia, you can see an argument that this is the least bad alternative.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 05 Oct 2015 #permalink

The Swedish population has grown from about 8 to about 10 million in the 30 years or so I have been monitoring it. Not much in absolute numbers, but a relatively large relative increase. It is certainly not decreasing, so I don't see where a population deficit could come from, except perhaps in some regions where people move from the country to the city, but I don't think the plan is for refugees to preferentially settle in the countryside.

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 06 Oct 2015 #permalink

The development over the past 30 years includes the immigrant contribution. Without it the population would dwindle.

Right, so it has grown. It hasn't shrunk. Thus I don't see where a deficit could come from.

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 06 Oct 2015 #permalink

Error. Should be "none of this has anything to do with"

By Birger Johansson (not verified) on 06 Oct 2015 #permalink

"I’m explaining why immigration is useful to the Kingdom of Sweden."

OK, but that makes sense only if the population deficit applies to Viking-descendant ethnic Swedes and not the whole country.

Again, I find it rather paradoxical that many who support immigration because they think that anything else is xenophobic (I'm not saying that this is necessarily the case for you, though the arguments are similar) try to justify it as being good for the country being immigrated to. By the same token, it must be bad for the country being immigrated from, and doesn't seem like a policy a relatively rich country should support for its own benefit at the expense of others.

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 06 Oct 2015 #permalink

By the same token, it must be bad for the country being immigrated from

This might be true if per capita resources are equal, or nearly so, between the two countries in question. That's not the case here.

What's happening in Syria is, at its root, a resource war. Syria has been in a severe drought, so there isn't enough water to go around. The various factions in the Syrian civil war are fighting over whether Bashar Assad et al., ISIL, or some other bunch of despots will be in charge of distributing those resources. So each refugee family that moves to northern Europe, which has plentiful supplies of water, is one less family straining the resources of Syria. I'm simplifying a bit here: the war is undoubtedly turning what would be a bad-but-survivable situation into an intolerable situation for many Syrians. War isn't good for the host country's infrastructure, either (old civil engineering joke: civil engineers don't build weapons systems, they build targets).

These resource wars are only going to get worse. Today Syria is the main conflict, but next year or ten years from now other countries will be affected. The West can't afford to just sit and watch this happening, because lots of people in the affected countries are going to notice that resources are that much more plentiful in places like Sweden (as well as the US and Canada). Two words: nuclear weapons. Pakistan is high on the list of countries at risk of falling into civil war over resource issues (again, water). North Korea, despite perennial famine, has less immediate risk, but if Kim Jong-Un's government falls, it will fall hard, with nasty effects for South Korea, China, and Japan. One or both of those countries might be willing, or even eager, to trade nuclear weapons technology for bread (with or without circuses).

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 06 Oct 2015 #permalink

#17 - The flaw in your argument is that some countries are operating at the Malthusian limit, while others have abundant resources but face a rapidly ageing population which they will be unable to support in the fairly near future simply due to lack of workers.

I don't know what the mean life span is in Syria, but I'm willing to bet it's a lot lower than Sweden, simply because Syria is at the Malthusian limit with respect to some essential resources. You benefit the country simply by taking away a substantial % of the population, and you benefit the receiving country by injecting a younger work force to help support the elderly population.

That applies even if the migrants are only suited to menial jobs, because anyone can work as a care provider in a home for elderly people; for most tasks you don't need any special skills, or at most a bit of on the job training. The same applies to carers for mentally or physically disabled people, and these are not sought after jobs.

The Japanese are so paranoid about preserving their culture that they are trying to design robots to take care of elderly people, rather than face an influx of Filipino or Indonesian migrants who would do it better, but who inevitably would bring their culture with them. They need not even be migrants - there are plenty who want overseas contract work for a period of years before returning home again. So the 'threat' to culture is purely imagined and paranoia. And the workers can be 100% female, so there is no downside of having a lot of unattached young males around.

It's a win-win situation, but xenophobes will always manufacture arguments for why it's the wrong thing to do.

I had a Muslim Indonesian girl living in my home for more than 5 years, and there was no negative aspect to the arrangement at all. She got to earn money to help support her family in Indonesia until she was ready to go home and get married. My wife got some help with the housework, so she could have the time to go out and work. Cultural conflict? Zero. While she lived with us, that girl regarded us as her de facto parents, and there was never any friction. She cried and hugged us when she left because she would miss us - a family of pork-eating heathens.

By John Massey (not verified) on 07 Oct 2015 #permalink

Phillip, #17: the nativity deficit obtains regardless of ancestry. If Sweden did not receive immigrants, then the population would dwindle fast. It may be that the aboriginal genetic subset of the population is particularly bad at reproducing. Seems likely since low nativity correlates with high education, and education level correlates with the length of time that a family has been in Sweden. Anyway, the total nativity of Swedish residents in a year does not compensate for the total mortality.

What went wrong? Sweden has the reputation, probably deserved, of being one of the best places in the world to raise children, but nevertheless not even enough are born to replace the dying.

Note: In discussing demographic developments such as this, only part of the problem is too few births. Another is the increasing life expectancy, but this trend will not continue at the same rate forever.

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 07 Oct 2015 #permalink

Nothing went wrong. Swedish women decided that they would rather have university education and jobs of greater responsibility than raise large families. It's a universal mechanism. Educate girls and they have fewer children.

(Two of my previous comments are stuck in a spam trap).
Given the way that the population of the rich world exploded in the 19th and early 20th centuries, its hard to see why a century or so of gradual population decline supplemented by immigration would be a bad thing. A smaller world population will make a lot of problems easier, and while there are economic difficulties, economies are created to serve people not the other way around.

It's true. It has happened everywhere in the world where females have been permitted to gain an education.

The secret to the dreaded population explosion was staring people in the face all the time. All you have to do is let little girls go to school, and the girls will do the rest. It is so simple it is laughable.

The population drop in China has been attributed to the one child policy, but it would have happened anyway with the demographic transition and with girls being given equal opportunity in education.

By John Massey (not verified) on 07 Oct 2015 #permalink

Sure, to some extent. Where there are no state pensions etc, people need many children so that someone will care for them when they are old. Yes, it is good that women don't have to have 20 children or whatever like in the old days (of course, not all reached adulthood; most didn't), especially if they don't want to. Yes, it is good that sex and reproduction are largely divorced (i.e. most sex does not lead to pregnancy, true now even more than in the past, and sometimes there can be pregnancy without sex, and of course there are lots of fun things one can do which can't lead to pregnancy).

But come on! A society in which most women (and/or men) prefer to have less than two children on average is not a functioning society. Unfortunately, natural selection will kill it off, as is now happening in Sweden.

Perhaps you could comment on the recent undercover story on Swedish television about Swedish physicians in Sweden carrying out virginity checks on young women against their will because of a (non-Swedish) requirement for virginity before marriage.

What a shame. Sweden used to be a very interesting place.
In 50 years, Swedish society will be practically non-existent.

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 07 Oct 2015 #permalink

In 50 years Swedish society will have developed and adapted the best ideas brought by people like the immigrant parents of my two consecutive wives. Their grandchildren are fully Swedish in culture.

I wish I could have your optimism. Yes, it can happen in some cases. As I mentioned, both my wife and I immigrated to Germany as adults. Unless someone tells them, everyone assumes that our children our German, and that is usually the case with us as well (some people hear a slight accent (from us, not from our children), but usually can't tell what sort of accent). But you and I are exceptions, not rules, as the undercover investigation of virginity tests demonstrates.

Integration might work if a minority is to be integrated, but when most of the population are immigrants, why should they be integrated into a minority?

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 07 Oct 2015 #permalink

Home protection:
--- --- ---
When immigrants end up in ghetto-like areas integration works badly. I wish there was a humane way to counter the tendency for refugees to seek out fellow expatriates in a few towns, but since they rely much on extended family for support, forcing them to be spread out across the country would be counterproductive, at least in the short term.

By Birger Johansson (not verified) on 07 Oct 2015 #permalink

What sort of support?

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 07 Oct 2015 #permalink

We are very, very far from a majority of Swedish citizens being first- or even second-generation immigrants. And there is much intermarriage. When I was a kid, xenophobes would complain that foreigners came to take our girls. You don't hear that anymore, because it's become clear that many foreigners are girls.

What sort of support?

The same sort of support native citizens would get from their extended families, when available. Help getting through everyday bureaucratic tasks like getting an identity card or registering children in school. Child care (Grandmother is a handy babysitter when she's available). Leads for finding jobs. Probably a dozen other things I'm overlooking. Plus, if you are not yet fully fluent in the majority language of the place you live in (a skill which at best takes years to acquire, and some adults never do), it can be useful to have somebody available to explain things to you in your native language. That's how things have worked in the US, and it accounts for the clusters of Laotian and Indonesian immigrants in towns near where I live.

There is also the question of sponsorship. This doesn't necessarily apply to refugees seeking asylum, but many immigrants (at least in the US) are sponsored by family members. Naturally, a sponsored immigrant will want to live near her sponsors.

A society in which most women (and/or men) prefer to have less than two children on average is not a functioning society.

Citation needed. We live in a world of finite and unequally distributed resources, and the current world population is more than can be sustainably supported with these resources. When the alternative is Malthusian disaster, intentionally limiting the reproduction rate is a rational response. Better to have your one child live to have a child than to have five children that succumb to starvation, disease, or resource wars, leaving no grandchildren.

Also, society is not a genetic concept nor a static one. Societies evolve even without immigration. As long as the immigrants adapt over several generations to the society they are joining, they can influence the evolution of society without killing it off. That's what happened with the massive influx of immigrants to the US in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It's not the same American society that would have resulted without those immigrants, but it is a recognizably American society. I'm in one of the few parts of the US where it's common to find people whose ancestors have been in the region for more than 200 years. But even in the places that have seen the most immigrant influence, the society is recognizably American.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 07 Oct 2015 #permalink

"A society in which most women (and/or men) prefer to have less than two children on average is not a functioning society." Yes, citation needed.

This is just you opinionating. Personally, I am totally disinterested in your opinions, particularly as you don't seem to know or understand much. I am interested in facts, and you are not presenting any.

What do you think happened to the average person who survived the bubonic plagues that swept Europe? I'll tell you - for most of them, life became infinitely better. Europe suddenly lost 1/3 of its population; in some places up to 1/2, but for the survivors, life became very much better than it was when Europe was at the pre-plague Malthusian limit.

Women choosing to have one or two children sounds like a much better way to achieve this state than spreading plague.

And besides, it doesn't remain static. In parts of America where the birth rate had dropped below replacement level among more wealthy people, birth rates are now rising again.

There is one golden rule you can always count on to be true - linear projections of population never turn out to be true. Not ever.

In Australia, one third of the currently resident population were not born in the country. Despite what many Australians will opine about this, the fact is the large majority of those migrants have come from the UK, or are whites from South Africa. And far from 'fitting in' they are the worst migrants to get - low intelligence, unskilled, and totally disinterested in adapting.

It's a sick joke - Australians waffle ignorantly about how they have a 'multi-cultural' society, when the reality is that the country is becoming *whiter* and more British Colonial, and the people see themselves less a part of Asia than they did 20-30 years ago.

My home city of Perth had a bigger Chinese population in 1926 than it has now. That has to tell you something significant. What it's telling you is that Chinese don't want to migrate there because they receive racist treatment and are never permitted to adapt. *Not*permitted*to*integrate*.

I would feel far more comfortable if the migrants were from China and Southeast Asia, because those people are better educated and more disposed towards adapting. They also make much better neighbours they're quiet, of sober and moderate habits, they work hard and place minimal burden on the social services, and they don't commit crimes. That is not true of the white migrants. Even the Somali and Sudanese refugees adapt better than the British and white South Africans.

One of the reasons I choose not to live in the country of my birth any more is because it is now whiter and more racist than when I was a child. And instead of that producing a more coherent community, it has become more fractured.

By John Massey (not verified) on 08 Oct 2015 #permalink

Yeah, I agree, the idea that all functioning societies produce population growth is unfounded. In order for this planet to remain hospitable to life, we need to downsize humanity. But as long as other countries still have a surplus, Sweden is happy to make room for it.

One of the reasons I choose not to live in the country of my birth any more is because it is now whiter and more racist than when I was a child. And instead of that producing a more coherent community, it has become more fractured.

The same thing is happening in many rural areas of the US. Demagogues have been exploiting fear of the Other, to the point where I would not feel comfortable living in either of my parents' home towns. Here, the bias is more against Latin Americans than Asians, but it is definitely there. I hear stereotypes about lazy Mexicans (to many white Americans, all Hispanics are Mexican), but I see no evidence of it--on the contrary, they take many of the physically difficult jobs, and many of them try to send money home to their families. Maybe in the border states, where many people became Americans due to border shifts in the 19th century, some Hispanics are lazy, but anybody who comes this far north to look for work isn't lazy.

We have our share of xenophobic Brits, too. In our case, it's not just the lower classes; we have nitwits with Oxbridge accents among our elite. The accent fools some Americans into thinking they're smart, but they are still upper class twits.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 08 Oct 2015 #permalink

"Yeah, I agree, the idea that all functioning societies produce population growth is unfounded."

Not what I, nor anyone, claimed. Not growth, but stability. If there is decline, the society will die out. The population might be replaced by other people, but that is less authentic than some 1950s doowop group with no original members.

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 08 Oct 2015 #permalink

"Perhaps you could comment on the recent undercover story on Swedish television about Swedish physicians in Sweden carrying out virginity checks on young women against their will because of a (non-Swedish) requirement for virginity before marriage."

I guess "no comment" is also some sort of comment. Here is the link:…

If this is not the Islamization of Europe, I don't know what is.

Either the offending physicians are behind bars by the end of the year, or Sweden admits to massively failing to uphold basic human rights.

If as you say you are a long way from a majority of the population being immigrant (depends on the definition), just imagine what things will be like when the fraction is higher.

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 08 Oct 2015 #permalink

"Women choosing to have one or two children sounds like a much better way to achieve this state than spreading plague."

This could be in a dictionary as a particularly crass example of a false dichotomy.

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 08 Oct 2015 #permalink

...or a one child policy. And much more effective than going around giving women lectures on birth control, when in countries suffering from overpopulation, the women do not have control of their own situation.

I think I have already taken some pains to explain to you that I do not care what you think of what I say, because your opinion is of no value to me.

By John Massey (not verified) on 09 Oct 2015 #permalink

Phillip #35. Your preoccupation with authenticity is known as cultural essentialism in the humanities wing. We consider it a fallacious outlook. True, Swedish culture is no longer what it was 200 years ago. And true, it will not remain identical over the next 200 years. But Swedish culture in 1815, 2015 and 2215 is equally "authentic". Or non-authentic.

Phillip #36. The absence of comments could be interpreted as a shame-faced admission that you're right. It could also be interpreted to mean that nobody here cares as much about Islam or fears it as much as you do.

Phillip hasn't been saying anything substantially different from what US nativists have been saying since the mid 19th century--the details vary, but the basic point is that Those People will never be assimilated into mainstream society. The US nativists have been consistently wrong in the past, and there is no evidence they are any less wrong today. The only exceptions have been people who were not allowed to assimilate--in the US that would be people whose ancestors came from sub-Saharan Africa in the last 500 years. Everyone else has become American--including the Jews, who have an especially strong tendency to intermarry (the Jews only consider you Jewish if your mother was Jewish, or you were converted by an orthodox rabbi). The process usually takes two or three generations, but it happens. Such was the case in my family: my grandmother, who was born in the US, spoke only Danish before she went to school, while none of the cousins of my generation know more than a handful of words in that language.

I don't know enough Swedish to evaluate the reliability of the links he has been providing, but the similarity of his talking points to what I hear from US Republicans--a group that has an extensive track record of claims which are easily proven to be counterfactual--is enough to make me skeptical. News sources don't always tell the truth--ask anybody from the former USSR about that, or look at Fox News in the US.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 09 Oct 2015 #permalink

I think the reaction, or lack of reaction, to my comments illustrates part of my point. Sure, societies change. Big deal. Often change is for the better. But this doesn't mean that change per se is good. Some things can change for the worse, and one should take steps to counteract such changes.

If you don't know enough Swedish to comment on the links, then don't comment on the links. I'm sure Martin knows enough Swedish. I posted a link to an undercover television programme which was about Swedish physicians in Sweden examining girls against their will to see if they were virgins in connection with Islamic weddings. I think that it is sad that Martin hasn't commented on this other than to say that society is always changing. Also, many here seem to believe in a false dichotomy: either one is a neo-Nazi or a Donald Trump style nativist, or one thinks that open borders and unlimited integration is a good thing. A little thought shows that the most sensible position is somewhere in-between.

Also, sensible people not speaking out about obvious violations of human rights by Swedes in Sweden opens the gates to all kinds of right-wing racist groups no sensible person wants to see in power.

Remember Germaine Greer saying that it was cultural imperialism to criticize FGM? Is that really the level we have to sink to?

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 09 Oct 2015 #permalink

"The absence of comments could be interpreted as a shame-faced admission that you’re right. It could also be interpreted to mean that nobody here cares as much about Islam or fears it as much as you do."

Please say which one. If I'm right, why not alert more people to this problem. I really don't think that you don't care about forced virginity exams.

There is a big problem that people are afraid of being labelled as right wing, making the "enemy of my enemy is my friend" mistake, and forgiving gross violations of basic human rights by anyone the right wing doesn't like. Not only is this wrong, but it has the side effect of making the right wing more acceptable, though to some as a last resort and lesser of two evils.

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 09 Oct 2015 #permalink

I think a doctor who fingers a girl's or woman's vagina without consent needs to be stripped of their licence. As for cases where she consents, I don't care much.

I know a lot more Swedish than I did before I met Martin. And besides, there is good enough translation software.

I'm ignoring it because it's uninteresting.

If it is being done to non-consenting adults or to children, who cannot give legal consent by definition, then it is a criminal offence under the definition of sexual assault and will no doubt be dealt with under the law.

If it is being done to consenting adults, then it is none of my business. And none of your business either.

Germaine Greer is a mad old bat well past her use-by date who these days is always diametrically wrong in everything she says, without fail, but reading "The Female Eunuch" as a teenager woke me up to a lot of the bastardry that gets done to women, and for that I owe her.

FGM is a criminal offence in Australia, even if it is conducted by Australian citizens outside of the country, and it would not surprise me if the law in Sweden is the same or similar, so again, your comment is of no interest because you are describing a criminal offence.

By John Massey (not verified) on 10 Oct 2015 #permalink

Philip, one thing that you might want to consider is that most of the past high culture which we remember was produced by subcultures which depended on recruiting outsiders to exist. From the nineteenth century as far back as we can remember big cities had higher mortality than fertility rates. Bringing people from all over into a settlement which strains its society's transport infrastructure is a recipe for lots of sick hungry cold people which leads to lots of deaths, and every so often someone would sack the city and kill or deport everyone inside. Cities survived by constantly recruiting people, whether country people who had very little contact with their country's high culture before they arrived, or wandering experts and traders and criminals, because life in cities was more interesting than living in a village. In Europe and South Asia another large part of the 'high culture' which we remember was produced by religious communities whose members could not marry. So its perfectly normal for cultures to reproduce themselves by recruiting outsiders rather than fertility.

"If it is being done to non-consenting adults or to children, who cannot give legal consent by definition, then it is a criminal offence under the definition of sexual assault and will no doubt be dealt with under the law."

Technically true. By the same token, why worry about "honour killings"? Murder is already illegal.

That's not the point. The point is that people allow, and even aid and abet, some groups to break the law when in other cases prosecution would be swift. The motivation? Don't upset the immigrants or you will be branded anti-immigrant.

Why is infant and/or child circumcision still allowed in many places? Because old religions do it. If some newfangled sect had sexual mutilation of minors as part of its rites, it would be rightfully forbidden.

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 12 Oct 2015 #permalink

"So its perfectly normal for cultures to reproduce themselves by recruiting outsiders rather than fertility."

True, but this does not mean that all immigration, in all amounts, is in the interest of the target country, or even the source country.

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 12 Oct 2015 #permalink

"The point is that people allow, and even aid and abet, some groups to break the law when in other cases prosecution would be swift." - That is an allegation unsupported by facts. It sounds like paranoia. I have not heard of any cases in Western democracies where such crimes have been aided and abetted by the legal authorities. If you can cite real cases to the contrary, aside from the empty ramblings of some geriatric attention-seeking basket case like Germaine Greer, it would be of interest.

"Why is infant and/or child circumcision still allowed in many places? Because old religions do it. If some newfangled sect had sexual mutilation of minors as part of its rites, it would be rightfully forbidden." - Yes, and in this case I agree with you completely.

By John Massey (not verified) on 12 Oct 2015 #permalink

Philip, I don't like big theories. But people are fleeing Syria and western Iraq because their choices are living under a horrible dictatorship which bombs and conscripts and tortures them, or living under one of three terrible religious extremist groups which shells them and persecutes them for not practicing exactly the right religion exactly the right way (the estimates I have seen is that no more than 10% of all resistance fighters are in any other group, and many of the small groups are also nasty; most of the secular groups were crushed or forced to join one of the big religious ones at gunpoint). And I care a lot more about people from Syria and Iraq than about some abstract good for the nations of Iraq and Syria; great evil has been done by people who believed that the actual human beings in a country today were less important than its glory in the future. I also figure that people from Iraq and Syria can decide what to do with their lives better than I can.

"That is an allegation unsupported by facts."

This was a reference to the link I posted about Swedish physicians in Sweden performing virginity tests on women against their will. This is illegal in Sweden. Why didn't someone from the hospital report it? Not reporting is aiding and abetting. Why was an undercover television reporter the first to report on this?

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 13 Oct 2015 #permalink

"Not reporting is aiding and abetting. Yes.

"Why was an undercover television reporter the first to report on this?" No idea, but now that they have alerted the police, I would expect the police to investigate, and charge people as appropriate.

Keep you eagle eyes on the Swedish press and let me know what happens, would you? I will interested to know.

One problem I see is that the victims will be too scared to give evidence or say it was without their consent.

By John Massey (not verified) on 13 Oct 2015 #permalink

One problem I see is that the victims will be too scared to give evidence or say it was without their consent.

A fair amount of criminal activity, most of it entirely unrelated to the religion or immigration status of the perpetrators, continues to exist for exactly this reason. Without the testimony of victims, the prosecutors can't make the charges stick.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 13 Oct 2015 #permalink