In the last five years, Sweden, with a total population of less than 10 million, has accepted more asylum seekers per capita than any other European nation.
In fact, in 2015 (the last year for which statistics on the topic are available), the little Nordic country registered a record 163,000 asylum applications.
And while there have been several recent incidences of possible arson at refugee camps in the south of Sweden, the country has advocated for other European Union states to pull their fair weight in accepting refugees from the war-torn regions of the Middle East and North Africa, even going so far as to suggest that EU aid to poorer members be conditioned on their willingness to grant asylum to these desperate displaced persons.
So when Swedish Ambassador to Mexico Annika Thunborg celebrated her country’s national day last week with a diplomatic reception at her residence, it was no surprise she made a point of underscoring her country’s commitment to immigration.
“The success of modern Sweden is constituted on a number of pillars, and one of them is immigration,” she said.
“Without its Chileans, Iranians, Ethiopians and Vietnamese immigrants, Sweden would never have reached its current level of development.”
Thunborg went on to say that while there is now much debate in Europe as to what constitutes the continent’s ethnic identity, “Europe has always been multicultural.”
“Pre-Christian cultures governed Europe for thousands of years,” she said.
“And it is not at all surprising that one of Sweden’s most important national holidays today is Midsommar, the summer solstice, when our ancestors celebrated the return and power of the sun.”
Thunborg also pointed out that Europe’s Jewish community has long played an integral role in the continent’s cultural, economic and political development.
“So too, the world of Islam, with its advanced empires, has had a cultural influence on Europe,” she said.
“We cannot overlook the scientific, intellectual and liberal thinking that took place on the other side of the Mediterranean during the Middle Ages, one of the darkest periods in European history, and one of the brightest in the Arab, Persian and Turkish worlds.”
Thunborg closed her national day speech by saying that in an open and democratic society, acts of terror and extremist movements cannot be tolerated, and that these crimes are not the consequence of immigration, but of closed minds and hatred.
What Thunborg said was right.
All modern societies are an amalgamation of cultures and ethnicities.
And it is that constant influx of new blood and new ideas that provide countries with perpetual social and cultural renewal.
Despite unfounded xenophobia and ethnocentric biases that often spring from the introduction of new cultures, immigration is the lifeblood of all nations’ innovation and social regeneration.
There are, of course, inherent risks to opening a country’s doors to unvetted and unlimited immigration, but the risks of keeping those doors too tightly shut are far more dangerous.
Thérèse Margolis can be reached at email@example.com.