On April 29, the Spanish government announced that it would allocate €2.1 million ($2.9 million) to try to stem illegal border crossings in Ceuta and Melilla, two Spanish exclaves in North Africa. More than 1,000 African migrants attempted to reach Spain in April during nearly daily attempts to storm and scale the six-meter (20-foot) triple-layer fence separating Melilla from Morocco.
In Sweden, the parliament on April 10 approved a new law that will make it easier for public prosecutors to take criminal action against Swedes who criticize immigrants or government officials online. The new law removes the requirement that there must be a special reason to prosecute for defamation or insult. Critics say the new law, which takes effect on January 1, 2015, is an assault on the exercise of free speech: Swedish thought police will be able to prosecute anyone who expresses an opinion about Muslim immigration and much else if that opinion is deemed to be defamation or slander.
The measure has been pushed by Swedish parliamentarian Andreas Norlén, who in an unchallenged debate on the issue in parliament, said: “I do not think it takes very many prosecutions before a signal is transmitted in the community that the Internet is not a lawless country: the sheriff is back in town.”
The Swedish government is also spending 60 million krona ($9 million) to boost voter turnout in Muslim neighborhoods—such as the Rinkeby district in Stockholm, the Rosengård district in Malmö, and the Rymdtorget and Bergsjön districts in Gothenburg—ahead of European elections in May.
Separately, the government was forced to drop a controversial plan to lower the tax rates in Muslim neighborhoods after the European Commission said that allowing immigrants to pay lower taxes than Swedes would violate EU rules on state aid.
According to the latest data from Eurostat, Sweden is the EU country that receives the most asylum seekers from developing countries relative to their population. Most of the asylum seekers in 2013 were from Afghanistan, Kosovo, Pakistan and Syria.
At the same time, more than 50,000 native Swedes fled the country in 2013, according to new data from Statistics Sweden (SCB). This is the highest figure since the peak years of emigration to North America in the 1880s. By contrast, immigration from the developing world to Sweden reached its highest level ever in 2013, with nearly 115,800 immigrants, according to the SCB.
On April 5, it emerged that a Swedish national of Somali origin was arrested in Kenya on suspicion of trying to recruit young men for the Islamic terrorist group, Al-Shabaab. Some 30 Swedish nationals have traveled to Somalia to join Islamic militant groups, according to the Swedish intelligence agency Säpo.
In Switzerland, the University of Fribourg will host the country’s first training center for imams. The center will provide courses for imams on Swiss culture and society, courses for social workers and health professionals on accommodating the Muslim community and, ultimately, a training program for new imams. The objective is to produce locally-trained imams to join the ranks of the country’s 150 imams, all of whom were schooled abroad.
The original idea for the project came from a national research program called “Religious Groups, State and Society,” which found that most of the imams and teachers of Islam did not speak Swiss national languages and did not know Swiss society, culture and laws.