Swedish authorities have started paying Swedish youths to spend time with migrants and “asylum seekers”, in a desperate attempt to show that integration and multiculturalism can work.
“It is sad that they have to pay as we’ve been doing fun things too, it has not been hard work,” participant Magdalena Hautala told SVT.
Around 50 Swedish-born youngsters, aged 14 to 15-years-old, are being paid 50 Swedish Krona ($6/£4.50) an hour to mingle with the new, mainly Muslim, arrivals.
In the first week of the trial, in the town Svenljunga, about an hour from Gothenburg, the teenagers are said to have learnt about democracy, equality, and prosperity.
“You can’t just turn things on, but we see it as these young people are doing a very important job in teaching about their cultures and gaining a greater understanding of each other,” said project manager Kristina Sune Fire.
“Compensation is still a good enticement,” she added.
Sweden welcomed more than 190,000 migrants and “refugees” last year – more per capita than any other European nation.
The vast majority were young men, and the unemployment rate among foreign-born men aged 18-24 years sits 41 per cent.
The young migrants participating in the scheme in Svenljunga do not have work permits and receive income support payments from the government.
In the first week, they were treated to a free trip to the Liseberg amusement park where they went canoeing on the water “learn to cooperate in and with nature” and stayed with a scout troop in a wooden cabin.
Aian Houseen, from Somalia, has been in Sweden for three years and said the trip had been a great success and she now has five Swedish friends.
“I was not afraid. I think it’s good to care about someone from another country. All are equal,” she said.
Magdalena Hautala agreed. “I thought it would be more difficult to make contact, but I have discovered that we are all young and are interested in the same things and laugh at the same things,” she says.
Adding: “You understand each other easily even if they come from a different culture.”