06:46 GMT +327 June 2017
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    People react as they stand around cars gutted by fire in the Stockholm suburb of Rinkeby

    Sweden is on Fire: Car Arson Epidemic is Catching

    © AFP 2017/ JONATHAN NACKSTRAND
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    Sweden's image as a peaceful Nordic country may end up shattered for good, as an unprecedented spate of car arsons has hit the country's major cities, wreaking havoc.

    Hundreds of vehicles have been set alight in towns and cities across Sweden since the beginning of summer. The spate of car fires started in Malmö (where over 105 cars were torched since early July), only to spread to nearby cities and reach the capital city Stockholm. In Malmö, Sweden's most "multinational" city, cars were set alight for the ninth consecutive night. Last night alone, police received reports of cars on fire in nine different districts within half an hour.

    Recently, the car arson epidemic spread to the Swedish city of Norrköping, where 20 cars were destroyed. In Södertälje, 40km south of Stockholm, a biogas car was set alight, whereas in Borås in western Sweden, rescue services put out fires that had engulfed a motorbike and two mopeds.

    ​​Remarkably, police made no arrests in any of the overnight cases. What most of the fires have in common is that they occurred in blighted immigrant areas, which are commonly dubbed "no-go zones" and which police and emergency services tend to avoid due to the danger posed by the area. Whereas the immigrants are commonly blamed for the wide-spread pyromania, this has not been proven officially, since no suspects have been apprehended.

    Besides putting Swedish police and emergency services under enormous strain, the series of car arsons filled ordinary Swedes with shock and awe, prompting them to take action. In a number of cases, residents were forced to step in and put out the fires themselves, as rescue workers struggled to cope with their task.

    "Residents have acted heroically. They have put the fires out themselves with portable extinguishers. They are the only ones affected by this. It's their cars that are burning," spokeswoman Anna Göransson at Malmö police told the tabloid newspaper Aftonbladet.

    Former Justice Minister Beatrice Ask called on the government to act forcibly to return security to Swedish resident areas.

    "There has been an exceptional increase in the number of car fires over the years. A proper effort is needed now," Ask told Swedish newspaper Sydsvenskan, calling for "more muscle for the police," which at present is severely understaffed and forced to run under immense pressure.

    According to her, car fires damage the Swedish economy.

    "Losing your car can mean that you're unable to do your job," Ask pointed out.

    So far, Swedish authorities have been curiously priding themselves on the fickle statistics, according to which the country is actually seeing a downward spiral in car arsons, as compared to more "bumper crop" years, such as 2013, when riots occurred in the immigrant-dominated suburbs of Stockholm, leading to total damages of at least 63 million SEK (8 million USD).

    Topic:
    Major Migrant Crisis in Europe (1816)

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    Tags:
    migrant crisis, riots, arson, car, Scandinavia, Sweden
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