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The Somali mothers fighting street crime in Sweden

December 10, 2018
tags:#human rights, #Sweden, #refugees, #immigration, #crime
located:Sweden, Somalia
by:Bob Koigi
The Global Peace Index has identified Sweden among the safest countries in the world with other numerous surveys pointing to the country as the most reputable and well governed, as evidenced in the impressive economic growth and employment rate.

But behind the façade is a worrying trend of an upsurge in crime as captured in recent statistics where murders, rape and street crime have become commonplace. In 2017 alone, for example, over 320 shootings were recorded, 7,220 rapes and more than 110 murders, representing a 10% rise compared to 2016. Up to 36% of Swedish women express fear walking at night.

The crime is largely concentrated in Stockholm neighbourhoods. Rinkerby one of the residential areas embodies the runaway crime and is seen as a reflection of Sweden’s failed immigration policies. Christened the “Little Mogadishu” due to the large Somali population, the predominantly immigrant town with a population of about 19,000 people and where nine out of ten people are non-Swedish, has never known peace. Drugs are trafficked openly, police cars are torched and bombs go off randomly. Teenagers as young as 15 carry guns and wear body armour. Interestingly the suburb hasn’t had a police station since 2014, although the government has announced plans to set up one in 2019. However, police patrols are frequent in the area. While it has been a bone of contention whether the spike in crime is as a result of immigration or spiralling unemployment, there seems to be no letup in the mutating crime. Sweden has for more than years run a liberal immigration policy opening its doors to thousands of refugees each year from Middle East and Africa.

In 2015 over 160,000 refugees sought asylum in the country after fleeing war and tough conditions mostly in their home countries. Those who were lucky now ended up in Rinkerby that is now home to refugees from Syria, Turkey, Eritrea, Somalia, Ethiopia and Chile among others.

The tipping point of crime in the area was in 2015 when gang-related killings hit the area with teenagers as young as 17 armed and paid to carry out revenge murders. Two brothers who were known to live normal crime-free lives were among those killed inside the neighbourhood hotel, an instance that jolted women in the area into action who had known the brothers since childhood and who feared that their children would be next in line. While many people fled the area as crime continued, unabated, some women chose to stay and tackle violence head-on.

The women, who are predominantly of Somali origin, have regrouped themselves and carry out night patrols after completing their daily jobs. Donned in orange jackets they move from schoolyards to parks, areas that are common with drug traffickers and criminals. Their modus operandi involves having conversations with the young people involved in these businesses without calling cops on them. It also allows them to establish trends that could prevent future crimes. In an area where the immigrant youth have constantly complained about racial profiling by the police and where their frustrations at unemployment and segregation build up pushing them to the streets, the patrol women look at giving the youth an audience to ensure they are heard and loved.

Iman the leader of the women group, who fled Somalia 26 years ago at the height of one of the deadliest conflicts says that with the relationship between the youth and the law enforcers being strained, the only alternative is to ensure that Rinkerby rises from crime and violence by giving the young people a voice and platform to express themselves insisting that force only creates rebellion and hate.

The women’s efforts have been paid off albeit in smaller ways. Anytime they are on patrol there is little movement and the young people are usually at home or desist from engaging in activities that they ordinarily would if they are not being watched.

But while the women say that the exercise is the first step in restoring order in Rinkerby, they decry the lack of support from authorities despite their work being dangerous. They have also faced criticism from some quarters who believe that they should be at home spending time with their children than roaming in the streets. Still, the resolve of the women to rid the streets of crime gets stronger with each patrol.

Article written by:
Bob Koigi
Bob Koigi
Author, Contributing Editor
Sweden Somalia
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