The anti-immigration Sweden Democrats party has launched a poster campaign apologising for “organised begging” in Stockholm.
The posters, which are in English and aimed at tourists, feature images of people sleeping in the street and say: “Sorry about the mess here in Sweden. We have a serious problem with forced begging! International gangs profit from people’s desperation. Our goverment [sic] won’t do what’s needed.”
They continue: “But we will! We are the Sweden Democrats! Welcome back to a better Sweden in 2018!”
Sweden has experienced a sharp rise in migrants in recent years, many of them from the Roma community who come to the country under EU free movement rules. Many take to begging on the streets of the Swedish capital.
Sweden Democrat press officer Henrik Vinge told The Local: “I don’t think it’s gone so far that people are avoiding Sweden yet. But I know that it is a concern. Of course people outside of Sweden are noticing the rise in organized begging, everyone who has foreign friends hears these things.”
However, the Swedish left are outraged by the posters. Around 1,000 turned out to demonstrate against them, with organisers saying they were “shocked that our subway company allows these types of racist opinions about a group of people in society”.
“They call [the beggars] a mess like they are going to clean them away,” added Amie Bramme Sey.
Over 50 complaints have also been handed to Sweden’s Chancellor of Justice, the ombudsman that regulates free speech and freedom of the press. A spokesman said an investigation had been launched: “The freedom of press violation that could apply is hate speech. We prioritize such cases and should have a decision ready in two weeks, perhaps even this week.”
Bramme Sey added: “The [Sweden Democrats] party is doing everything it can to criminalize and dehumanize these people.
“Racism is so normal today that people can’t tell what is racist or not even when it’s staring them in the face.”
Organised begging is now likely to be outlawed by Sweden’s centre-left government.