Södertälje, Sweden (AINA) -- Taking a walk through central Södertälje, a Swedish town south of Stockholm, Nawras Radeef and Samar Matti, an Assyrian couple who fled from Iraq eight months ago, contemplate the problems of living in a crowded house. The shortage of houses in Södertälje keeps them stuck living with their cousin.
Theirs is a familiar story for Mr. Anders Lago, the mayor of Södertälje, who have watched on powerlessly the last years as his city became literally invaded by Assyrians fleeing from Iraq, desperate to join the already sizable Assyrian community who made Södertälje their home decades ago.
All attempts to redirect the Assyrian refugees to other towns have failed so far, lending Mr. Lago a town with severely strained resources as schools and other public institutions are fighting to keep up with demand.
The situation in Södertälje became world news through the articles of investigative journalist Nuri Kino, himself of Assyrian origin and an inhabitant of Södertälje. Since his writings in the international news paper Metro some year ago, dozens of news teams have flocked to his hometown explaining to their audiences that Sweden takes in more Iraqi refugees than the U.S. and Canada combined.
It is this fact Mr. Anders Lago now hopes to change as he prepares to travel to the U.S on Wednesday upon a formal invitation from a subcommittee of the Congress, who is in need of advice on how to tackle the Iraqi refugee crisis.
"I hope to be able to push the Americans to take greater responsibility for the Iraqi refugees. There are still very many of them in Syria and Jordan, some are making it to the west, but the U.S., Europe and the world community must take greater responsibility for this situation, says Mr. Lago."
Being the mayor of a city with a large Assyrian community has made him aware of the peculiar situation this ancient people have found themselves in since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.
"I will explain to the Americans that the Christian Assyrians are fleeing and that they are in fact being ethnically cleansed in Iraq. The protection of the Assyrians is an important issue, he underlines. "
Mr. Lago has himself become increasingly convinced that that there is an urgent need for an Assyrian administered area in northern Iraq where there is still a concentration of Assyrians, mainly in the Nineveh Plaines. The Assyrian Democratic Movement, the political party that enjoys the greatest support among Assyrians, has announced it is able to launch a local 3000-men strong police force in the Nineveh Plaines, securing the area from Islamists and aggressive Kurdish nationalists, who make life difficult for the Assyrians. The only thing stopping the formation of an Assyrian security force is lack of political will from the Americans and the central government in Baghdad.
While the lack of security pushes Assyrians away from Iraq, those who make it to Södertälje are faced with other problems.
Pushing their baby carriage as they walk the streets of Södertälje, Nawras and Samar are embedded in Scandinavian tranquility, discussing the problems of living in a crowded house and fantasizing about how wonderful it would be to have their own apartment.
By Afram Barryakoub