Journalist on migration to Sweden: "No solutions for young people"

Swedish journalist Diamant Salihu fled Kosovo in 1991. He deals with problems in Sweden's migrant neighborhoods.

A man is wearing a jacket, has shorter dark hair and is smiling at the camera

Swedish journalist Diamant Salihu Photo: Mondial

taz: Mr. Salihu, you were seven years old in 1991 with your family escaped from Kosovo. How did you experience arriving in Sweden?

Diamond Salihu: My advantage was that I went to school in what was then a mixed area. There were many Swedish children and some who had foreign backgrounds. My sister and I quickly learned Swedish, so we could easily establish ourselves. It can be difficult for parents, but mine were lucky: they had a kind of guide, a Swedish friend. Nils invited us to his home and we invited him to ours. It created a connection that was crucial for my parents.

39, is a Swedish journalist, born in today's Kosovo. In 2021 his book "Until All Die" about a gang war near Stockholm was published.

Today, Sweden is discussing “exposed neighborhoods” in which many people live in relative poverty and without prospects, most of them with an immigrant background. What has happened since your arrival time?

Where I grew up, the families who could have gradually moved away. New immigrants then often moved to relatives or acquaintances. This has created areas where they can no longer interact with ethnically Swedish parents because there aren't any more.

What are the consequences?

When people move to such a neighborhood and don't even speak Swedish, they become even more isolated. For example, they don't understand how the authorities work. This has many consequences. Children can scare their parents by saying: 'Here in Sweden children can do whatever they want. If you punish me, the authorities can take me away from you.” That's actually what many parents are afraid of.

What does this mean for the children?

They grow up in a society in which many of their parents could not establish themselves. At the same time, children in the Swedish majority society are met with great distrust, for example in relation to their religion or appearance. You end up in an intermediate state. In the conversations I've had, many have reported that they don't really belong anywhere.

Does this also apply to members of hostile gangs who have been involved in deadly clashes since 2015? A huge issue in Sweden.

Yes. Young men who join a destructive milieu are also searching for an identity. This "gangster identity" becomes part of their affiliation, along the lines of: "Me and my buddies, we grew up in the same area, we know what we've been through, let's make the best of it and make some money." They see an opportunity in the drug trade, from which many of the conflicts arise.

What action must the government take?

Many at the same time. You have to change the housing market – it feels like you have been waiting in line for decades for an apartment in the city centre. You have to make it easier for social services to communicate with other authorities. There needs to be better support for single mothers in these areas. With this complex problem, you have to work with individual solutions.

Why hasn't there been a successful strategy so far?

Everyone agrees that something needs to be done. But there is no agreement on how to solve the problems concretely and collectively. The debate about it is becoming a political battle, with many actually talking about the same thing.

Before the elections, the governing Social Democrats spoke out in favor of a regulation according to which at least 50 percent of people with a "Nordic background" should live in a residential area - an idea criticized as racist.

That's exactly what I mean: you criticize – but no one presents a solution that improves something for this generation of young people in the neighborhoods.

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