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Immigration to Sweden

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Immigration to Sweden

Immigrants and emigrants, Sweden 1850–2007

Immigration to Sweden is the process by which people migrate to Sweden to reside in the country. Many, but not all, become Swedish citizens. The economic, social, and political aspects of immigration have caused controversy regarding ethnicity, economic benefits, jobs for non-immigrants, settlement patterns, impact on upward social mobility, crime, and voting behavior. As the Swedish state does not base any statistics on ethnicity, there are no exact numbers on the total number of people of immigrant background in Sweden.[1]

As of 2010, 1.33 million people or 14.3% of the inhabitants in Sweden were foreign-born. Of these, 859,000 (64.6%) were born outside the European Union and 477,000 (35.4%) were born in another EU member state.[2] Sweden has been transformed from a nation of net emigration ending after World War I to a nation of net immigration from World War II onwards. In 2013, immigration reached its highest level since records began with 115,845 people migrating to Sweden while the total population grew by 88,971.[3]

In 2010, 32,000 people applied for asylum to Sweden, a 25% increase from 2009, however the number of people who received asylum did not increase because the large increase was much due to the allowing of Serbian nationals to travel without a visa to Sweden.[4] In 2009, Sweden had the fourth largest number of asylum applications in the EU and the largest number per capita after Cyprus and Malta.[5] Immigrants in Sweden are mostly concentrated in the urban areas of Svealand and Götaland and the four largest foreign born populations in Sweden come from Finland, Yugoslavia, Iraq and Iran.[1]


  • History 1
  • Contemporary immigration 2
  • Demographics 3
    • Current population of immigrants and their descendants 3.1
    • Immigration 3.2
    • Country of origin for persons born abroad 3.3
    • Ethnicity 3.4
      • East & South East Asians in Sweden 3.4.1
      • South Asians in Sweden 3.4.2
      • South Americans in Sweden 3.4.3
      • Assyrians/Syriacs in Sweden 3.4.4
      • Arabs in Sweden 3.4.5
      • Bosnians in Sweden 3.4.6
      • Finns in Sweden 3.4.7
      • Iranians in Sweden 3.4.8
      • Somalis in Sweden 3.4.9
      • Kurds in Sweden 3.4.10
      • Romani in Sweden 3.4.11
      • Turks in Sweden 3.4.12
      • Serbs in Sweden 3.4.13
      • Albanians in Sweden 3.4.14
    • Religion 3.5
      • Christianity 3.5.1
        • Protestantism
        • Catholicism
        • Eastern Orthodoxy
        • Oriental Orthodoxy
      • Islam 3.5.2
      • Judaism 3.5.3
      • Hinduism 3.5.4
      • Buddhism 3.5.5
  • Effects of immigration 4
    • Demographic 4.1
    • Economic 4.2
    • Social 4.3
      • Ethnic conflicts 4.3.1
        • Antisemitism
      • Segregation 4.3.2
    • Crime 4.4
    • Language 4.5
    • Environment 4.6
    • Education 4.7
    • Political 4.8
    • Health 4.9
  • Politics 5
  • Legal issues 6
  • Media coverage 7
  • See also 8
  • References 9


Population of Sweden, 1961 to 2003. The population increased from 7.5 to 8.3 million during the 1960s to 1970s. After a phase of stagnation during the early 1980s, the population grew further from 8.3 to 8.8 million during 1987 to 1997, followed by another phase of stagnation (followed by another growth phase from 8.8 to 9.3 million over 2004 to 2010).
World War II

Immigration increased markedly with World War II. Historically, the most numerous of foreign born nationalities are ethnic Germans from Germany and other Scandinavians from Denmark and Norway. In short order, 70,000 war children were evacuated from Finland, of which 15,000 remained in Sweden. Also, many of Denmark's nearly 7,000 Jews who were evacuated to Sweden decided to remain there.

A sizable community from the Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) arrived during the Second World War.[6]

1945 to 1967

During the 1950s and 1960s, the recruitment of immigrant labor was an important factor of immigration. The Nordic countries signed a trade agreement in 1952, establishing a common labour market and free movement across borders. This migration within the Nordic countries, especially from Finland to Scandinavia, was essential to create the tax-base required for the expansion of the strong public sector now characteristic of Scandinavia. This continued until 1967, when the labour market became saturated, and Sweden introduced new immigration controls.

On a smaller scale, Sweden took in political refugees from Hungary and the former Czechoslovakia after their countries were invaded by the Soviet Union in 1956 and 1968 respectively. Some tens of thousands of American draft dodgers from the Vietnam War in the 1960s and 1970s also found refuge in Sweden.

Contemporary immigration

Since the early 1970s, immigration to Sweden has been mostly due to refugee migration and family reunification from countries in the Middle East and Latin America.[7]

In 2009, immigration reached its highest level since records began with 102,280 people migrating to Sweden while the total population grew by 84335.[1] In 2010, 32,000 people applied for asylum to Sweden, a 25% increase from 2009, one of the highest amount in Swedish since 1992 and the Balkan wars.[4] However the number of people that were granted asylum stayed the same as previous years. In 2009, Sweden had the fourth largest number of asylum applications in the EU and the largest number per capita after Cyprus and Malta.[5]

During 2010 the most common reason for immigrating to Sweden was:

  1. Labour migrants (21%)
  2. Family reunification (20%)
  3. Immigrating under the EU/EES rules of free movement (18%)
  4. Students (14%)
  5. Refugees (12%) [8]


Current population of immigrants and their descendants

There are no exact numbers on the ethnic background of migrants and their descendants in Sweden as the Swedish state does not base any statistics on ethnicity. This is however not to be confused with the migrants' national backgrounds which are being recorded.

As of 2011, a Statistics Sweden study showed that around 27% or 2,500,000 inhabitants of Sweden had full or partial foreign background and around 73% or 7,000,000 had no foreign background.[9] Of these inhabitants; 1,427,296 persons living in Sweden were born abroad. In addition; 430,253 persons were born in Sweden to two parents born abroad and another 666,723 persons had one parent born abroad (with the other parent born in Sweden).


Immigrants(red) and emigrants(blue), Sweden 1850–2007

In 1998, there were 1,746,921 inhabitants of foreign background and their descendants(foreign born and children of international migrants) composing around 20% of the Swedish population. Around 1,216,659 or 70% came from Scandinavia and the rest of Europe and 530,262 or 30% came from the rest of the world. [10]

In 2011, with the total population being 9,562,556; roughly 15% of the population was born abroad, 5% of the population was born in Sweden to two parents born abroad, and another 7% was born in Sweden to one parent born abroad. Resulting in 27% of the Swedish population being of at least partly foreign descent.[11]

Population by ancestry,Sweden 2002-2011

Country of origin for persons born abroad

25 largest immigrant populations by country of origin 2013[12]
Country Men Women Population
Finland 64,443 96,686 161,129
Iraq 69,426 59,520 128,946
Poland 34,200 43,975 78,175
Former Yugoslavia 34,570 33,984 68,554
Iran 35,198 32,013 67,211
Bosnia and Herzegovina 28,031 28,773 56,804
Somalia 27,107 27,114 54,221
Germany 23,014 25,973 48,987
Turkey 25,193 20,483 45,676
Denmark 22,957 20,241 43,198
Norway 18,836 23,687 42,523
Syrian Arab Republic 22,841 18,907 41,748
Thailand 8,026 28,948 36,974
Chile 14,295 14,046 28,341
China (excluding Hong Kong) 11,114 16,809 27,923
Lebanon 14,012 11,200 25,212
Afghanistan 15,224 9,920 25,144
United Kingdom 15,452 7,889 23,341
Romania 11,247 12,052 23,299
India 10,413 10,169 20,582
United States of America 9,991 9,019 19,010
Russian Federation 6,128 12,096 18,224
Eritrea 8,091 8,501 16,592
Vietnam 7,392 8,705 16,097
Hungary 7,917 8,036 15,953
Immigrants from other countries 196,381 203,248 399,629
Total immigrant population 748,366 785,127 1,533,493


East & South East Asians in Sweden

115 331 people in Sweden are born in East Asian (43 000) and South East Asian (72 000) people which is about 1 % of the entire population. The largest groups are Thai (36 000), Chinese (28 000) and Vietnamese (16 000). East and South East Asians have moved to Sweden for very different reasons. Most Thai and Filipinos (11 500) arrived in Sweden via family reunification while Vietnamese and Burmese (1500) came as refugees. The group also consist of 10 000 South Koreans in which the overwhelming majority came through international adoptions in the 70’s and 80’s. The Asian population is spread all over the country with some groups overrepresented in Stockholm.

South Asians in Sweden

Unlike its Scandinavian neighbours Sweden doesn't have a large South Asian population. In 2013 there were 46 231 South Asian born people living in Sweden which represents about 0, 5 % of the entire population. [13] Indian born constitutes the largest group with approximately 20 000 persons. About half of them came to Sweden through international adoptions and have limited connection to their country of birth. During the last decade the number of Indians who moved to Sweden because of employment increased and the last few years Indians are among the fastest growing immigrant groups.

South Americans in Sweden

66 912 persons in Sweden are born in South America. The largest groups are Chileans (28 000), Colombians (11 500) and Peruvians (7 200). [13] During Pinochet’s regime in Chile Sweden granted asylum to several thousand refugee who left Chile during these years. Also Argentineans and Uruguayans whom fled their dictatorship were granted asylum but to a lesser extent than Chileans. Since the democratisation of South America the immigration to Sweden changed from refugees to family reunification and more lately to migration for employment and education purposes. The fastest growing group is currently Brazilians followed by Colombians.

Assyrians/Syriacs in Sweden

Assyrians in Sweden numbered around 120,000 people as of 2009, or 1.3% of the total population of Sweden. Their size doubled in the period of 2002 to 2009.[13] Sweden has a particularly large Assyrians/Syriacs community that grew substantially during the Iraq war. The Swedish city of Södertälje has alone taken in more Iraqi refugees than the United States and Canada combined.[14]

Södertälje has the largest group of Assyrians/Syriacs of any city in Europe, with more than 30,000 Assyrian/Syriacs living in Södertälje (amounting to 50% of the population), and around 50,000 Assyrians/Syriacs living in Stockholm County. Södertalje is often nicknamed "little Baghdad" or "Mesopotälje" owing to the number of Iraqi-based inhabitants in the city.[15]

Arabs in Sweden

There are around 230 000 people born in Arabic countries which makes them the largest minority in Sweden if counted as one minority group. In reality Arabs come from 18 different nations and represent several different religious groups. Arabs are spread all over Sweden with high concentrations in Malmö, Södertälje, Norrköping, Örebro, Stockholm and Gothenburg. The largest groups originates from Iraq (135 000), Syria (41 000) and Lebanon (25 000). In Sweden, a large number of people born in Arabic countries are not ethnic Arabs, these are mainly Maronites (Lebanese Christians of Syriac heritage) and Assyrians/Syriacs (Originating mainly from Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon). Arabs are one of the fastest growing groups[16] in Sweden because of Sweden’s liberal immigration laws and the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Syria. Even though the majority of Arabs arrived in Sweden as asylum seekers and via family reunification large groups also have arrived lately as labour migrants.

Bosnians in Sweden

Swedish footballer Zlatan Ibrahimović was born to a Bosnian father and Croatian mother

As of 31 December 2009 there are 56,127[17] people born in Bosnia and Herzegovina living in Sweden. This figure does not include Yugoslavs of Bosnian and Herzegovinian origin who immigrated before 1992. Most of these immigrants came to Sweden during the Bosnian War in the 1990s.

Finns in Sweden

Sweden Finns (ruotsinsuomalaiset in Finnish, sverigefinnar in Swedish) are a Finnish speaking minority in Sweden. The Finnish-speaking Swedes are not to be confused with the Swedish speaking Finland-Swedes in Finland (and Sweden). In year 2008 there were over 675 000 people in Sweden who were either born in Finland or have at least one parent or grandparent who was born in Finland. [1].

Iranians in Sweden

There are over 90,000 Iranians in Sweden, with most of them going on to higher education.[18]

Somalis in Sweden

According to Statistics Sweden, there were 31,734 immigrants from Somalia in 2009.[19] In 2012, the number had increased to 43,966.[20] Most arrived as asylum seekers and through family reunification services in the 1990s and the 2000s. Since the mid-2000s, there has been an increasing secondary migration of Somali immigrants and EU citizens from Sweden and other Scandinavian countries toward the United Kingdom. This exodus has been attributed to a desire to reunite with family members, to find work and to obtain international education in an environment that is perceived as friendlier.[21]

Kurds in Sweden

There are around 60,000 Kurds living in Sweden. Most of them live in the capital Stockholm, Malmö or in Uppsala. A majority of Kurdish political refugees choose Sweden as their host country and therefore they have a cultural presence in Sweden.[22]

Romani in Sweden

Not to be confused with the Romanian people.

Romani in Sweden were formerly known as zigenare (gypsies) for Roma and tattare for Romani Travellers. More recently the romer has been adopted as a collective designation referring to both groups, with resande (Travellers) also referring to the latter only. Currently, there are approximately 50,000 Romani living in Sweden, many of them being Finnish Kale who immigrated in the 1960s. The latter, particularly women, often wear traditional dress in public.[23]

Romani in Sweden have periodically suffered at the hands of the state. For example, the state has subjected children to being forcibly taken into foster care, or even forcibly sterilised Romani women. Prejudice against Romanies is widespread, with most stereotypes portraying Romani as welfare cheats, shoplifters, and con artists. In the 1992, Bert Karlsson, one of the leaders of Ny Demokrati, declared that "Gypsies are responsible for 90% of crime against senior citizens" in Sweden.[24] Previously he had tried to ban the entry of Romani to his Skara Sommarland theme park, because he considered them responsible for theft. Some shopkeepers, employers and landlords continue to discriminate Romani.[25]

The situation is, however, improving for the Roma. There are several Romani organisations that promote Romani rights and culture in Sweden. Since 2000, Romani chib is an officially recognised minority language in Sweden. The Swedish government also has a special standing Delegation for Romani Issues. There is now even a Romani folk high school in Gothenburg.[26]

Turks in Sweden

There are around 20,000 ethnic Turks living in Sweden. Most of them came as labour immigrants in the 1960s and 1970s. Most of them live in Stockholm and Malmö.

Serbs in Sweden

There are around 80,000 Serbs living in Sweden. The Swedish Serbs constituted a low percentage of the Swedish population prior to the 1960s. Some came after World War II, mostly seeking political asylum. The greatest proportion of Serbs came together with Greeks, Italians and Turks under the visa agreements in times of severe labour shortages or when particular skills were deficient within Sweden.[27] During the 1960s and 1970s, agreements were signed with the governments of Yugoslavia to help Sweden overcome its severe labour shortage.[28] Bosnian Serbs and Croatian Serbs migrated in another wave during and after the Yugoslav wars. Another wave of Kosovar Serbs came during the Kosovo war in 1999.

Albanians in Sweden

There are more than 50,000 ethnic Albanians in Sweden. They come from all Albanian dominated parts of the Balkans (see Great Albania).Many Albanians came from Kosovo in early 1990s because of the wars in the Balkans (se Yugoslav wars).



Eastern Orthodoxy
Oriental Orthodoxy





Effects of immigration



Immigration has a significant effect on the demographics of Sweden. Since World War II, Sweden has like other developed nations turned into a country with a low fertility rate. Due to the high birthrates in early post-war years and the steep decline in the late 20th century, Sweden has one of the oldest populations in the world. In 2009, 102,280 immigrants entered Sweden while the total population grew by 84,335.[1]

The high immigration rate, low fertility and high death rate is gradually transforming the previously homogeneous nation of Sweden into a multicultural country. The Sweden Democrats has criticised the country's current immigration policies, claiming they can pose a major demographic threat to Sweden in the future. It is expected that the Muslim minority in Sweden will grow from 5% to 10% by 2030.[29]



Ethnic conflicts


A government study in 2006 estimated that 5% of the total adult population and 39% of adult Muslims "harbour systematic antisemitic views".[30][31] In March 2010, Fredrik Sieradzk of the Jewish community of Malmö told Die Presse, an Austrian Internet publication, that Jews are being "harassed and physically attacked" by "people from the Middle East," although he added that only a small number of Malmo's 40,000 Muslims "exhibit hatred of Jews."[32]

Sieradzk also stated that approximately 30 Jewish families have emigrated from Malmo to Israel in the past year, specifically to escape from harassment estimating that the already small Jewish population is shrinking by 5% a year. “Malmo is a place to move away from, right now many Jews in Malmö are really concerned about the situation and don’t believe they have a future here” he said, citing anti-Semitism as the primary reason.[33] The Swedish newspaper Skånska Dagbladet reported that attacks on Jews in Malmo totaled 79 in 2009, about twice as many as the previous year, according to police statistics.[34]

Judith Popinski, and 86-year-old Holocaust survivor, told The Daily Telegraph that she is no longer invited to schools that have a large Muslim presence to tell her story of surviving the Holocaust. Popinski, who found refuge in Malmo in 1945, stated that, until recently, she told her story in Malmo schools as part of their Holocaust studies program, but that now, many schools no longer ask Holocaust survivors to tell their stories, because Muslim students treat them with such disrespect, either ignoring the speakers or walking out of the class. She further stated that "Malmo reminds me of the anti-Semitism I felt as a child in Poland before the war. “I am not safe as a Jew in Sweden anymore.”[35]

In December 2010, the Jewish Simon Wiesenthal Center issued a travel advisory concerning Sweden, advising Jews to express "extreme caution" when visiting the southern parts of the country due to an increase in verbal and physical harassment of Jewish citizens in the city of Malmö.[36]



Immigrants are overrepresented in Sweden's crime statistics. In a study by the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention in 1997–2001, 25% of the almost 1,520,000 offences were found to be committed by people born abroad and almost 20% were committed by Swedish born people of foreign background. In the study, immigrants were found to be four times more likely to be investigated for lethal violence and robbery than ethnic Swedes. In addition, immigrants were three times more likely to be investigated for violent assault, and five times more likely to be investigated for sex crimes. Those from North Africa and Western Asia were overrepresented.[37][38]







Legal issues

Media coverage

The conservative American TV channels Fox News and Christian Broadcasting Network have aired news reports portraying immigration to the Swedish city of Malmö.[39][40]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d "Tabeller över Sveriges befolkning 2009 – Statistiska centralbyrån". 2009-01-24. Retrieved 2012-08-13. 
  2. ^ 6.5% of the EU population are foreigners and 9.4% are born abroad, Eurostat, Katya VASILEVA, 34/2011.
  3. ^ "Preliminary Population Statistics, by month, 2014". 2014-03-06. Retrieved 2014-03-25. 
  4. ^ a b Anja Eriksson/TT (2011-01-03). "Serber ökade flyktingströmmen". DN.SE. Retrieved 2012-08-13. 
  5. ^ a b "Malta has highest per capita rate of asylum applications". Retrieved 2012-08-13. 
  6. ^ The Swedish Integration Board (2006). Pocket Facts: Statistics on Integration. Integrationsverket, 2006. ISBN 91-89609-30-1. Available online in pdf format. Retrieved 14 February 2007.
  7. ^ Sweden: Restrictive Immigration Policy and Multiculturalism, Migration Policy Institute, 2006.
  8. ^ Beviljade uppehållstillstånd och registrerade uppehållsrätter 2010.
  9. ^
  10. ^ Charles Westin,p. 23 The effectiveness of settlement and integration policies towards immigrants and their descendants in Sweden|pages=23.Migration Branch International Labour Office(using Statistics Sweden data),Geneva,Switzerland 1999
  11. ^ "Number of persons with foreign or Swedish background (detailed division) by region, age in ten year groups and sex. Year 2002-2011". Statistics Sweden. Retrieved 2013-01-05. 
  12. ^ "Utrikes födda i riket efter födelseland, ålder och kön. År 2000 - 2013". Statistics Sweden. Retrieved 9 March 2014. 
  13. ^ a b c [2]. Statistiska Centralbyrån. Retrieved on 2014-08-20.
  14. ^ "US Congress praises Södertälje mayor – The Local". Retrieved 2012-08-13. 
  15. ^ "‘Little Baghdad’ thrives in Sweden - World news - Europe -". MSNBC. 2008-06-19. Retrieved 2012-08-13. 
  16. ^ http://articles/Arabs_in_Europe#Demographics
  17. ^ Folkmängd. Tabeller över Sveriges befolkning 2009.
  18. ^
  19. ^ "Tabeller över Sveriges befolkning 2009" [Tables on the population in Sweden 2009] (in Swedish). Örebro: Statistiska centralbyrån. June 2010. pp. 20–27.  
  20. ^ Migrationsverket
  21. ^ Kleist, Nauja (2004). "Nomads, sailors and refugees: A century of Somali migration" (pdf). Sussex Migration Working Paper (Sussex Centre for Migration Research,  
  22. ^ Sverige världsledande på kurdisk litteratur. Författaren, No 4 1994, p. 25
  23. ^ Gyllenbäck, Mirelle (25 July 2007). "Därför klär jag mig inte som min mamma".  
  24. ^ Bjurwald, Lisa (1 July 2008). "Vår skuld until romerna".  
  25. ^ "Report faults Sweden for discrimination".  
  26. ^ "Victoria invigde romsk folkhögskola".  
  27. ^ (Swedish) Serbia Government Offices of Sweden.
  28. ^ (Swedish) "Historik" (History), Swedish Migration Board.
  29. ^ "A waxing crescent". The Economist. 27 January 2011. 
  30. ^ Henrik Bachner and Jonas Ring. Antisemitic images and attitudes in Sweden.
  31. ^ Liphshiz, Cnaan (2007-11-09). "Anti-Semitism, in Sweden? Depends who you're asking – Israel News | Haaretz Daily Newspaper". Retrieved 2012-08-13. 
  32. ^ "Skandinaviens Juden fühlen sich nicht mehr sicher «". Retrieved 2012-08-13. 
  33. ^ "For Jews, Swedish City Is a ‘Place To Move Away From’ –". Retrieved 2012-08-13. 
  34. ^ Report: Anti-Semitic attacks rising in Scandinavia, Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA), March 22, 2010.
  35. ^ Meo, Nick (21 February 2010). "Jews leave Swedish city after sharp rise in anti-Semitic hate crimes". The Daily Telegraph (London). 
  36. ^ "Simon Wiesenthal Center to Issue Travel Advisory for Sweden – Officials Confer With Swedish Justice Minister Beatrice Ask | Simon Wiesenthal Center". 2010-12-14. Retrieved 2012-08-13. 
  37. ^ People with a foreign background behind 25% of Swedish crime. (2005-12-14). Retrieved on 2012-10-10.
  38. ^ People with a foreign background behind 25% of Swedish crime (2005-12-?). Retrieved on 2012-11-13
  39. ^ [3]
  40. ^ "Welcome to Sweden – Manipulation & Reality". YouTube. Retrieved 2012-08-13. 

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