Södertälje has become "Little Iraq" -- this town alone takes more Iraqi refugees than the U.S. This was reported in Metro a year ago. The story made big headlines all over the world -- and on Thursday mayor Anders Lago (Social Democratic Party) will give a speech to the U.S. National Congress.
Södertälje has been attributed in American media for its successful dealing with arriving refugees. Are the citizens of Södertälje as content about it?
"No. If you ask around, most people in Södertälje have the same opinion as I do; that Södertälje cannot take as many refugees as we are currently doing. Most people probably have a positive attitude towards immigration, but probably also think it would be more reasonable to spread the refugees among all cities in the country."
You will be given seven minutes for your speech in the congress. What will you say?
"That all countries must take a bigger responsibility for the Iraqi refugees. And that the war and the worry must be put to an end."
The U.S. started the war against Iraq, but hardly takes any refugees from the area. What is your opinion on that?
"It is deplorable, and I will say so. But it holds for the countries in the EU as well. It is almost only Sweden that acknowledges refugees from Iraq as refugees."
What does the situation for the refugees look like in Södertälje?
"Last year we received slightly more than 100 refugees per month. Most of the newly arrived live in cramped accommodation with other people. There is an example of 15 people living in one small apartment, sleeping on mattresses on the floor. This hits the hardest on the refugees themselves, not least the children who experience a very bad start to their life in the new country."
Many of the refugees are Christian Iraqis who flee the war and the oppression.
"Yes, almost all of them. I have met many people who tell horrifying stories about relatives and friends who have been murdered and persecuted. I can understand that people flee, but there must be an asylum headquarters where all countries help out, and a headquarters in Sweden from where the refugees are spread among all cities."
How well do you think the Swedish reception of asylum seekers is working?
"It has fallen apart. A very large fraction of the refugees settle in a few neighbourhoods or towns. Most people probably have a positive attitude towards immigration, but probably also think it would be more reasonable to spread the refugees among all cities, says member of the municipal council Anders Lago, who will be give a speech at the National congress in the U.S. on Thursday. The whole country ought to share the responsibility."
By Anders Göransson