Suspicious Fires in Refugee Centers In Sweden Prompt Fears Of Unrest

Four refugee centers in Sweden have been set on fire in the past week, raising fears that arsonists are targeting buildings specifically set aside for asylum seekers, according to the Washington Post.

The latest incident occurred early yesterday morning in Munkedal, a town about 200 miles southwest of Stockholm. Police in the area said that emergency services were called to a blaze at a building just after 4 a.m. where 14 people were helped to safety. Firefighters took at least five hours to put out the blaze. No one is reported to have been injured.

The incident has not been confirmed as arson, but an investigation is underway, and Anki Larsson, a deputy duty officer for the region's police force, told the TT news agency that the fire did not start in "any natural way," according to The Local Sweden. The building was providing temporary shelter to 20 asylum seekers.

The secretary general of the Swedish Red Cross, Ulrika Årehed Kågström, contacted by telephone, says: "One fire is one too many and this must come to an end. Since the fires are under police investigation we don't know the intent behind them but we do wish that refugees receive a compassionate welcome in Sweden. We must remember that these people are looking for a safe haven."

The incident is only one of four suspicious fires to have occurred at buildings earmarked for asylum seekers in the past week. On Saturday, a fire occurred at an old school building in Onsala, south of Gothenburg, while two other buildings were burned to the ground in Ljungby and Arlöv in southern Sweden.

Swedish politicians have been quick to voice their concern. "A civilized and humane country like Sweden cannot accept that accommodation for asylum-seekers is set on fire," wrote Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom on Twitter.

Authorities in some parts of the country have now said they will not release details of other buildings planned for asylum seekers, fearing more attacks. Umeå municipality in northern Sweden announced on Monday that it will no longer disclose where it intends to house 150 asylum seekers in the coming weeks.

Sweden has taken in more refugees per capita than any other country in Europe in recent years, according to Eurostat figures. Last week the Swedish Migration Agency, Migrationsverket, revealed that 86,223 people had launched applications for asylum so far in 2015, surpassing a previous record set in 1992, when refugees fled to Sweden to escape fighting in the Balkans.

The agency also revealed in June that 1,447 unaccompanied minors came to Sweden to seek asylum—the highest ever figure recorded in a single month. So far this year the number of children seeking asylum has risen by 93 percent compared with the equivalent period the previous year.

Meanwhile, support for the far-right Sweden Democrats party appears to be growing. In August, the Daily Telegraph newspaper reported that the Sweden Democrats, an anti-immigration party with roots in the neo-Nazi movement, had become Sweden's most popular political party, according to a YouGov poll, gaining the support of 25.2 percent of voters.