The rewards of pride and piety have suddenly expired in Scandinavia. The northern democracies, accustomed to dispensing unwanted tutelage in sanctimony, have canceled their welcome for the wave of migrants from the Middle East and North Africa trying to break down the door to Europe.
The Scandinavians, particularly the Swedes, have sometimes claimed humanitarian credentials while betraying their neighbors. Sweden, which professed to be neutral in World War II, was a critical supplier of high-quality munitions to the Nazis, permitting them to cross Swedish territory to invade Norway, and usually rejecting refugees.
Norway, too, has been anxious to deliver political nostrums to others. Its mediation in the Sri Lankan civil war muddled the issues and the civil war became a bloodbath. Though the Scandinavians posed as the moral arbiters of the West, their “model democracy” has created many unacknowledged social problems.
Sweden now says it will reject up to 80,000 asylum seekers who arrived last year, half of whom the government says will be forcibly deported. The government has told police and immigration authorities to prepare for a sharp increase in deportations, and to arrange charter flights of migrants to their country of origin. That will be difficult because some countries of origin, prominently Pakistan, won’t take them back. Sweden is trying to persuade other European Union countries, including Germany, to make sure the departing flights are filled to capacity.
Sweden took in more than 160,000 asylum applications last year, by far the largest number in proportion to its population of 9.5 million, approximately equal to the population of Michigan or North Carolina. Sweden followed Denmark in closing the door to refugees. Sweden now requires identification of each migrant, and says it will confiscate the assets of arrivals to pay for their accommodation. Norway has begun deporting arriving migrants through its Arctic border with Russia. The interior minister of Finland, with its long history of resisting Russian aggression, says it will expel about two-thirds of the 32,000 asylum seekers it originally accepted in 2015.
The open door to Scandinavia, like the welcome in the rest of Europe, is closing, in part to preserve the native culture. Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany, is a villain within her conservative coalition for her earlier welcome to all. The arrival of more than a million migrants in Germany alone — a large majority of them young single men and not the highly advertised families with women and small children — has created a new sense of crisis, with predictions of many more this year.
Germany’s elaborate social welfare program, a goal of many of the migrants, is breaking down under the impact of so many with so many demands, sometimes reinforced with riots. The dramatic attacks on young women by young men, many of them newly arriving Muslims, on New Year’s Eve in Cologne and other German cities were at first ignored by the mainline media, reinforces the new mood of resistance. Business interests, like the business lobby in the United States, are eager to welcome them for an abundant supply of labor.
Having accelerated the migrant flow, the Europeans, particularly the Scandinavians, face an unexpected emergency of how to block a tsunami of migrants who seek economic opportunity first, rather than opportunity to embrace the culture of their new homeland. Scandinavia in particular is getting an expensive lesson in how the world actually works, and that experience can be a harsh teacher, particularly for Europeans weaned on piety.