09:17 GMT +315 December 2019
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    Refugees sleep outside the entrance of the Swedish Migration Agency's arrival center for asylum seekers

    Minutemen from Abroad: Refugee Vigilantes Patrol Swedish City

    © AFP 2019 / TT NEWS AGENCY / STIG-AKE JONSSON
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    In the aftermath of the major refugee crisis in Europe and the soaring crime rate, street patrols in order to rein in violent offences have been launched by vigilantes in a number of EU-states. In the Swedish town of Skara, however, a street patrol group was started by immigrants themselves.

    The bus station in the overall quiet historical town of Skara has long had a reputation for being unsafe, especially in the evenings. The municipality was even forced to hire extra guards to fight off crime. The town's reputation has recently been tarnished by a number of fights and robberies, which is why asylum-seekers from the nearby accommodation center voluntarily began patrolling the area in order to maintain order and prevent any commotion.

    The association Skara United, which is topped by Sahlemariam Tesfai, decided to take action after the bus station was plagues by violent crime. A number of volunteers among the asylum-seekers have divided themselves into smaller groups in order to patrol the station area in the evenings.

    "By keeping an eye on the area, we hope to help regain Skara's safety and security," said Sahlemariam as quoted by Skaraborgs Länstidning.

    The initiative started last week, and Sahlemariam has already informed the municipality and the local police of their undertaking. During the evenings, the asylum-seekers are set to patrol the station area in orange vests in groups of up to five people patrol every night from 8 to 11PM. During their outings, the new vigilantes came in contact with both patrol officers and shopkeepers, who had earlier fell victim to robbery.

    "Most people we met were positive. We are now a part of the city and we must help protect it too," said Diaa Alltabidi, a member of the vigilante patrol.

    The new vigilantes had barely started out, when they already were lauded by the local police.

    "Basically, it is only positive when local people get involved," said Oscar Svantesson of the Skara police force.

    Immigration remains still somewhat of a mixed blessing for Sweden, with government officials and the mainstream media praising the arrival of asylum seekers as highly beneficial for both the country's economy and culture. The public's reaction, however, has been far from rosy, as many blame soaring crime rates on the immigrant influx. In mid-March, the far-right militia group Soldiers of Odin, originally hailing from Finland, was reported to have mushroomed into the neighboring Norway and Sweden. Crime-fighting street patrols were established in the capital city of Stockholm, as well as smaller localities across the country.

    However, this initiative received nothing but criticism from the authorities, whereas the media did their utmost to brand the vigilantes as "racists" and "lawbreakers."

    "This is not something we, the police, are going to encourage," police inspector Staffan Grenehammar of the Södermanland police told Eskilstuna Kuriren. "I believe that the patrols are going to create more chaos than order," he added. 

    Topic:
    Major Migrant Crisis in Europe (1819)

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    refugee crisis, crime, immigration, Scandinavia, Sweden
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