Sweden’s prime minister summoned the head of the armed forces and the police commissioner in an effort to prevent gang violence, he said on Thursday, following a wave of violence that has cost at least 11 lives in September alone.
Two individuals were killed in separate shootings in Stockholm on Wednesday, while a woman in her twenties was killed when a bomb ripped through a house in Uppsala in the early hours of Thursday.
“Sweden is going through a terrible period. “A 25-year-old woman went to bed on a completely ordinary evening last night but never woke up,” Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said during a rare broadcast address to the nation.
“We will hunt the gangs, we will defeat the gangs,” he declared.
After last year’s election, Kristersson formed a center-right minority government with the populist and anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats, bringing an end to eight years of Social Democrat-led governments in Sweden.
His coalition won the election partially on the promise of reducing gang violence, and it has since implemented a number of policies, including more police powers and stiffer penalties for gun offences.
Although the measures have yet to take effect, Kristersson blamed previous governments for the problems.
“It is an irresponsible immigration policy and a failed integration that has brought us here,” Kristersson stated.
Sweden has long maintained liberal immigration policy and took in more immigrants per capita than any other European country during the 2015 migration crisis.
The last Social Democrat-led administration overturned these rules, but Kristersson’s government has tightened them. Around 20% of Sweden’s 10.5 million people were born abroad.
Earlier on Thursday, the opposition Social Democrats, parliament’s largest party, urged the administration to modify the law to allow the military to assist in combating gang violence.
“This is not Sweden, this is not how Sweden should be,” Social Democrat leader Magdalena Andersson said at a press conference.
Kristersson stated that he had summoned the commissioner of national police and the supreme commander of the armed forces to assess the alternatives.
According to authorities, approximately 30,000 persons in Sweden are directly involved with or have ties to gang activities. The violence has also expanded from large cities to smaller places where violent crime was previously uncommon.
A shooter opened fire at a Sandviken pub earlier this week, killing two people and injuring two more. With 11 gunshot deaths this month, September has become the bloodiest month since December of 2019.
“The criminal conflicts in Sweden are a serious threat to the safety and security of the country,” stated National Police Commissioner Anders Thornberg in a statement.
“Innocent people are killed and harmed. We are doing everything we can within the police force and in collaboration with others to halt the progression.”
Meanwhile, the Swedish coalition and its allies aim to strengthen internal immigration controls with random checks and DNA tests.
Swedish Migration Minister Maria Malmer Stenergard, along with representatives from her coalition partners and the far-right Sweden Democrats, who support the government, announced their intention to crack down on the thousands of irregular migrants who are currently on Swedish territory at a press conference.
“The proposal for mandatory reporting of illegals in the public sector can counteract the shadow society,” she said right away.
According to her, 100,000 people may be living illegally in Sweden today. However, no other source has corroborated the figure.
An ongoing inquiry is now looking at whether Swedish towns and authorities should be required to notify the Swedish Migration Agency (Migrationsverket) and the police when they come into contact with people who are illegally living in Sweden.
“It is necessary that authorities in Sweden co-operate to improve return,” Stenergard stated.
At the same time, it is unclear what effect a reporting requirement would have. Many people in an irregular status in Sweden are from countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq, where residents who do not return freely are often not accepted.
The investigators will also look at the consequences of failing to comply with the notification or informing obligation. According to Stenergard, there may be exceptions to this rule, such as in the healthcare sector.
However, it is unclear if schools should be exempted as well, and the issue has sparked a heated debate between the Liberal Party and the far-right Sweden Democrats (SD).
The investigator will also assess the legal framework in order to provide authorities with more instruments to prevent illegal stays in Sweden.
Currently, a variety of requirements can result in immigration checks not being performed. In Sweden, for example, random inspections are now not permitted, though the government has stated that it is considering revising this law.
“It could be an effective tool in this context,” said SD’s migration spokeswoman, Ludvig Aspling.
The age limit for fingerprinting for internal immigration checks will be reduced from 14 to 12, and the Migration Agency will be given more authority to employ biometrics such as facial recognition and fingerprints.
“It may involve fingerprinting and photographing more people and storing them for a longer period of time,” said Christian Carlsson, the Christian Democrats’ migration spokeswoman.
The investigation will also look into whether it should be possible to utilise DNA analysis in internal immigration controls and residency permit cases. It will also consider whether the present four-year limitation period for deportation judgements should be eliminated or extended. Return bans will also be considered.
The interim report will be presented in January, and the full report will be presented in September of following year.