Sweden is taking steps towards civil defense that have not been seen since the Second World War. The Swedish government is about to distribute a brochure on civil defense to about 4.7 million households that warns of the onset of war. Serving as a manual of “total defense” in the event of war, the brochure provides details on how to be prepared for threats such as terrorism, climate change, and cyber attacks. The brochure also provides details about securing basic necessities such as water, food, and heating.

Christina Andersson, who leads the brochure project at the Swedish civil contingencies agency, said "All of society needs to be prepared for conflict, not just the military. We haven’t been using words such as total defense or high alert for 25-30 years or more. So the knowledge among citizens is very low.

Bearing the title “If Crisis or War Comes,” the brochure will be published by Sweden’s government this spring. While fear of a war with Russia has always an issue, Sweden has lately seen an uptick in domestic disturbances that followed the influx of mostly-Muslim migrants and refugees. Civil war is also an apparent concern within the Swedish government. Prime Minister Stefan Lofven told his countrymen on Wednesday, for example, that his government is prepared to resort to any measure, including military force, to bring a halt to growing gang violence in what have become known as “no-go zones” around the country. In those areas, Sweden’s police are often powerless to stop violence.

Sweden is prepared to do what it takes

"It’s not my first action to put in a military, but I’m prepared to do what it takes to ensure that the seriously organized crime goes away," Prime Minister Lofven said. “But it is also obvious that there are social problems. Last year 300 shootings occurred, 40 people were killed. The new year has begun with new launches. We see criminals with total lack of respect for human life, it’s a terrible development I’m determined to turn around,” he added.

Swedish Democrat leader Jimmie Akesson, a nationalist, has “declared war” against organized crime. He has also suggested that the government should deploy troops in the no-go zones to counter the violence there. On Wednesday, Akesson said in parliament, “People are shot to death in pizza restaurants, people are killed by hand grenades they find on the street.” Akesson added, sarcastically: “This is the new Sweden; the new, exciting dynamic, multicultural paradise that so many here in this assembly … have fought to create for so many years.” He was among the leaders of the three major Swedish parties that discussed the prospect of war during parliamentary discussions on Wednesday.

Moderate Party leader Ulf Kristersson said in Wednesday debate in parliament about crime and immigration that Sweden appears to be at war. “Last year, 300 so-called shootings were carried out in Sweden. 42 dead, criminals with hand grenades, as if there were war in our country.”

Åkesson called for a temporary curfew, rather than suggesting an increase in deportations for those found guilty of violent acts. He criticized Moderate Party leader Kristersson, saying: “I do not want to hear a single moderate in this House, especially Ulf Kristersson, who was in Reinfeldt’s [Former] government and is responsible for what is happening in Sweden today.”

Over the last 20 years, Sweden had diminished its military. But increasing tensions with Russia have led Sweden to conduct joint military exercises with the United States, Finland, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, France, and Norway in September 2017. It was Sweden’s largest military exercise in 23 years. Up for debate in the Scandinavian nation is whether it should join NATO. In March 2017, Sweden reintroduced compulsory military conscription. Sweden has contributed troops to the allied forces in Afghanistan.

Independent journalist Peter Imanuelsen suggested that the Swedish government may be preparing for destablizing event such as a “civil war.” Over the last few months, reports have come out of Sweden of hand grenade attacks on police stations. On Wednesday, yet another such attack was registered in Malmo, producing a huge explosion. There was another attack on police in Malmo on December 29. In addition, Swedes recall the deadly terrorist attack in April 2017 that was perpetrated by a rejected asylum-seeker from Uzbekistan. Driving down a pedestrian street, the terrorist mowed down five people and injured at least a dozen. One of the dead was a young girl who was crushed beneath the truck that the terrorist used as a weapon.

135,000 foreigners admitted as residents in 2017

The influx of migrants, as part of the migrant crisis unleashed when Germany opened its borders to immigrants in 2014, has lessened many Swede's acceptance of the notion that immigrants are able to integrate. A series of raucous demonstrations and riots since 2010, including some where civilian and police vehicles were torched, has increased apprehensions in Sweden. 

As of 2010 in Sweden, there were 1.33 million people or 14.3% of the population were foreign-born. Of these, 859,000 (64.6%) were born outside the European Union and 477,000 (35.4%) were born in another EU member state. In 2013, immigration reached its highest level since records began, with 115,845 people migrating to Sweden while the total population grew by 88,971. In 2014, 81,300 individuals applied for asylum in Sweden, which was an increase of 50% compared to 2013 and the most since 1992. Of these, 47% were from Syria, followed by 21% from Eritrea and Somalia. 63,000 requests were approved but it differs greatly between different groups. Nearly two weeks into October 2015, a record figure of 86,223 asylum applications was reached. In 2016, 28,939 people applied for asylum. As of 2014, according to official statistics, there are around 17,000 total asylum immigrants from Syria, 10,000 from Iraq, 4,500 from Eritrea, 1,900 from Afghanistan, and 1,100 from Somalia. In 2017, most asylum seekers were from Syria, Eritrea, Iraq , and Georgia.

In 2017, Sweden granted more than 135,000 residence permits. According to a report by the Swedish Pensions Agency, total immigration to Sweden for 2017 was expected to be roughly 180,000 individuals, and thereafter 110,000 persons every year. Immigrants in Sweden are concentrated in the urban areas of Svealand and Götaland. The largest foreign-born populations residing in Sweden come from Finland, Iraq, Poland, Iran, the former Yugoslavia, and Syria. 

According to the 2017 Swedish census, there were 10.12 million persons living in the country.

Rapes and other crimes increase

Coincidently, the number of rapes reported to authorities in Sweden increased by 10 percent in 2017, according to figures released by the country's National Council on Crime Prevention (Brå). Released on Thursday, the figures include all incidents reported as crimes with the police, prosecutors, and other authorities that investigate crime. They include incident that are later prove as non-criminal. The number of sex crimes increased by eight percent (1,600 reports): reported rapes increased by 10 percent – 663 reported rapes more than 2016 and reaching a total of 7,230. Reported instances of sexual molestation also grew by three percent (326 reports) to 10,800, and reported instances of sexual coercion and exploitation by seven percent (1,330 reports).

The total number of crimes reported in 2017 grew to 1.51 million crimes: or 4,010 more than 2016. 

The category with the biggest increase was crimes against the person, with the individual crimes of fleeing the scene of a traffic accident, computer fraud, possession of narcotics, and infliction of damages (other than graffiti) growing most. A total of 287,000 crimes against the person were reported last year – four percent more than 2016. According to Brå, this is because of the creation of a new crime category, "unlawful use of identity" of which 27,600 instances were reported. 

Safer in Israel

At the website of Sweden’s Expressen newspaper, four Swedish Jews were interviewed who preferred to emigrate to Israel because of the increase of anti-Semitism in their native country and anti-Semitism that they have experienced first-hand. Natalie Ivgi, 25, formerly of Mölndal, told the interviewer, "In Sweden, I dare not show that I am a Jew. People at the train station shouted "damn Jew!" and “dirty Jew” when she was spotted walking in public while wearing a Star of David necklace. She and the other Jews interviewed by Expressen said that paradoxically they often feel safer in Israel -- despite terrorism, missile attacks, and the constant threat of war -- than in Sweden. "I was two blocks from a terrorist council in Tel Aviv where I live. But I think I'm safer here. Here I know that people on the street would intervene immediately and help me if something happens, in Sweden I'm not so sure,” said Alice Hüttner, 26, from Stockholm.

In December, fire bombs were thrown at a synagogues in Malmö and nearby Gothenburg. Two recently-arrived migrants from Palestine and Syria have been arrested as suspects. That month, a crowd chanted "We will kill the Jews" during a demonstration. In Helsingborg, a Muslim prayer leader called Jews for the "spawn of apes and swine" earlier in the year. According to Sweden’s Jewish Union, more than half of the perpetrators of anti-Semitic threats and attacks are are believed to be Muslim views. Over the past five years, an average of 228 anti-Semitic hate crimes have been reported each year, according to the Brotts Prevention Council (Brå). In Sweden there are about 20,000 Jews, according to the Jewish Central Council's estimation.

Extreme nationalist groups have also increased in Sweden. Neo-Nazis marched on Yom Kippur in the fall of 2017, calling for Jews to leave the country.
Over the last few years, about 30 Swedish Jews have emigrated to Israel every year, according to the Israeli migration authorities. 
 
 

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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