Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat :

Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : Sweden Witnesses ‘Reverse Migration’ Phenomenon

Swedish Language Learning and Social Integration Training Center for New Immigrants and Refugees (Getty Images)
Swedish Language Learning and Social Integration Training Center for New Immigrants and Refugees (Getty Images)
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Sweden Witnesses ‘Reverse Migration’ Phenomenon

Swedish Language Learning and Social Integration Training Center for New Immigrants and Refugees (Getty Images)
Swedish Language Learning and Social Integration Training Center for New Immigrants and Refugees (Getty Images)

Azza, aged 35, arrived in Sweden 11 years ago to join her husband through family reunification programs. She dedicated much effort to learning Swedish, getting her university degree recognized, and taking extra courses to re-enter the nursing field.

She described her time in Sweden as “a dream come true, unlike anywhere else in the world.”

“The opportunities Sweden offers are unmatched for those who know how to make the most of them,” Azza told Aswat Asharq Al-Awsatt.

“What the country provides here cannot be compared to any other place, which is why we chose Sweden,” she added.

Despite her success, Azza is now planning to move back to Saudi Arabia, where she was born and raised in a Syrian family.

Reflecting on her decision, she said: “Initially, we focused on starting anew, but we eventually missed social connections.”

“The relationship between locals and newcomers is challenging, especially for someone like me,” added Azza.

“Here, social life feels muted, lacking interaction and acceptance. Swedish society values individualism, while we as immigrants often prioritize community ties and socializing,” she explained.

Evolving the Concept of Integration

In the past, Sweden aimed to integrate waves of immigrants, encouraging them to adopt the host society's norms while setting aside their own cultural and community traits. This approach was particularly felt by Iraqis arriving after 2003.

Today, the focus has shifted to celebrating cultural diversity and promoting a multicultural society. The aim is for immigrants to maintain their identities while gaining equal economic, social, and political opportunities in Sweden.

However, this shift has drawbacks, potentially isolating immigrants within closed circles.

According to Azza, immigrants can feel “trapped” because Swedish citizens often rely on state programs for integration, which she finds disappointing in their outcomes.

Meanwhile, the issue of integration is a contentious topic in media and political circles, particularly as far-right parties gain influence across several European nations, not just in Sweden.

“We’re blamed for the isolation we face here, as well as unemployment, and a host of economic, social, psychological, cultural, and health issues resulting from integration failures,” noted Azza.

“We've become a political pawn for right-wing parties,” she added.

“We’re living in the moment, trying to combat isolation and depression through yoga, long forest walks, indoor running, or attending mostly lackluster music events, all documented on social media to convince ourselves we’re okay and to find a glimmer of hope,” complained Azza.

Azza is not alone in Sweden. “Reverse migration” has become a notable trend, especially among immigrants and refugees.

Swedish national statistics show that in 2022, 50,592 migrants left the country, including 37% of those born in Sweden to Swedish parents, for various reasons.

By the end of 2023, more than 66,000 people had emigrated from Sweden, a worrying trend alongside a sharp decline in birth rates that has led to the lowest population growth since 2001.

Engineer Amer Baroudi, who moved to a Gulf country two years ago after living in Sweden with his family for eight years, shared his experience of reverse migration.

He found the move more suitable for his family, especially in terms of social security and raising children according to Arab values.

Baroudi explains that one of the main reasons for leaving Sweden was the rise of the far-right and their influence on immigration policies, which increasingly hindered integration efforts.

He described escalating racist rhetoric in both official and social settings, affecting workplaces and indicating institutional racism.

“Immigrants are often treated as second-class citizens, facing accusations of disloyalty to Sweden and threats of citizenship revocation,” Baroudi told Aswat Asharq Al-Awsatt.

“There’s talk of creating security zones where police can search immigrants and their children in public without cause,” he revealed.

Baroudi also highlighted the negative portrayal of social welfare services and the absence of official explanations for their role amidst growing anti-immigrant sentiment on social media.

Recent fears among immigrants, especially Muslims, of incidents labeled as “child kidnappings,” have led many to consider leaving Sweden or seeking other options.

A Swedish institution, established in the early 1990s, holds broad powers that sometimes override court decisions, allowing it to remove children from families if they face abuse or if their home environment is deemed unsafe due to issues like domestic violence, drug abuse, or other dangers.

In the past five years, there has been a peak in children being taken away, mostly from immigrant backgrounds, and placed in state care or with foster families.

The institution claims it does not target immigrants specifically but operates based on circumstances, leading to higher numbers from certain groups.

The handling of crises within social services has been notable for employee misconduct, secrecy, and delayed transparency from authorities, framing issues solely in terms of Sweden’s security concerns and deepening societal divides.

Media reports revealed that in 2022, 200 out of 240 removed children were involved in crime, including incidents within care homes, highlighting how marginalized children become vulnerable to exploitation by organized crime.

This trend is evident in rising gang activities, violent crimes, and shootings in immigrant areas, reinforcing stereotypes and fueling populist rhetoric against immigrants.

Due to mistrust and a divisive narrative, immigrant families often do not engage in state efforts to prevent child recruitment, perpetuating a cycle of marginalization and discrimination.

Ultimately, many like Baroudi choose to leave, feeling alienated and stressed, describing life as an escape from a large prison where they do not feel they belong.



Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : Israel-Hezbollah War... More Severe than ‘Al-Aqsa Flood’

An Israeli firefighter aircraft drops flame retardant on fires smoke after rockets fired from southern Lebanon hit an area in the Upper Galilee region in northern Israel on July 4, 2024. (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP)
An Israeli firefighter aircraft drops flame retardant on fires smoke after rockets fired from southern Lebanon hit an area in the Upper Galilee region in northern Israel on July 4, 2024. (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP)
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Israel-Hezbollah War... More Severe than ‘Al-Aqsa Flood’

An Israeli firefighter aircraft drops flame retardant on fires smoke after rockets fired from southern Lebanon hit an area in the Upper Galilee region in northern Israel on July 4, 2024. (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP)
An Israeli firefighter aircraft drops flame retardant on fires smoke after rockets fired from southern Lebanon hit an area in the Upper Galilee region in northern Israel on July 4, 2024. (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP)

In conflicts, both sides often set traps for each other. Yet today, in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, it appears both sides are falling into their own traps.

In the current Israel-Hezbollah conflict, despite denying interest in widening the war, both are moving towards escalation.

Israel continues military drills for expansion, supported by polls showing public backing, though decreasing recently. This support concerns Tel Aviv’s military leaders, who fear the public underestimates the war’s consequences.

Former Israeli National Security Advisor Eyal Hulata warns such a war could devastate parts of Lebanon and cause significant harm in Israel, potentially resulting in around 15,000 deaths.

The Terrorism Research Institute at Reichman University conducted a study with 100 military and academic experts on potential war scenarios with Hezbollah.

Their findings were alarming: they warned that such a conflict could quickly escalate across multiple fronts, involving Iranian militias in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, alongside Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the West Bank.

The study predicted that Hezbollah could launch a daily barrage of 2,500 to 3,000 rockets for 21 days, targeting military bases, cities like Tel Aviv, and critical infrastructure such as power plants, gas fields, desalination plants, airports, and weapon depots.

This onslaught would likely cause widespread chaos among Israelis.

Furthermore, Hezbollah might employ its strategy of sending “Radwan” units to infiltrate Israeli borders and occupy towns, similar to Hamas’ actions during operation Al-Aqsa Flood on Oct. 7.

The “Gaza-style destruction” scenario was initially floated to dampen calls for the army to invade Lebanese territory.

The Israeli military, wary of right-wing political pressures and their own hesitations about war, countered by publicizing plans indicating serious readiness.

Leaked drills suggest they are preparing for a large-scale ground invasion, aiming to occupy southern Lebanon up to the Litani River, possibly further to the Zahrani River.

They state that if Hezbollah rejects a political deal to stay away from borders, the military will enforce this with force.

They detail that the war could start with intense airstrikes, similar to Gaza, followed by a ground invasion.

Military sources reveal Israel has received delayed US weapons, including smart bombs, set to be used in airstrikes on southern Beirut suburbs and the Bekaa region at least.

The Litani River lies four kilometers from the border at its closest and extends 29 kilometers at its furthest, covering 1,020 square kilometers. It includes three major cities: Tyre (175,000 residents), Bint Jbeil, and Marjayoun, housing half a million people, with over 100,000 displaced.

Occupying this entire area won’t be easy. Hezbollah is stronger than Hamas, with a more extensive tunnel network and advanced weaponry. They’ve long been prepared for this war.

If Israel plans a short 21-day war, nothing guarantees that timeline, risking entanglement in Lebanon’s challenges once again.

The Israeli military is gearing up for a long war, preparing emergency reserves in hospitals, factories, government offices, and shelters.

They fear Hezbollah could launch thousands of rockets and drones, targeting key infrastructure like power plants, water desalination facilities, and gas wells.

Recent drills also factor in possible direct Iranian involvement, which could disrupt Red Sea shipping and possibly lead to strikes on Cyprus. This means all of Israel could face serious threats.

The Tel Aviv-based Institute for National Security Studies reports that Hezbollah has already fired over 5,000 projectiles from Lebanon, causing 33 deaths and extensive damage to both civilian and military targets in Israel.

There’s growing concern about the future of northern Israel, including 28 evacuated settlements and the city of Kiryat Shmona, whose residents are uncertain when they can safely return home.