Fire in Swedish Asylum Center

A fire broke out in a Swedish asylum shelter for immigrants in Vanersborg on February 25, injuring approximately 20 people. The police are treating this fire as a suspected act of arson. At around four o’clock in the morning, the fire started on the third floor of one of the buildings of the Restad Farm shelter. Twelve hundred people live in the shelter, and 160 live in the affected building. Authorities moved residents to a local gym due to unsafe conditions. Twenty people suffered from smoke inhalation and two were seriously hurt after jumping from a window.

Residents noted that the fire spread abnormally quickly. Adnan Abdul Ghani, a resident, commented, “A lot of people stay up late and we have never had an incident like this before here. We have a very nice relation especially here in the city, so we don’t worry at this time.” In response, the city sent an emergency support for psychosocial care to the victims.

This shelter was not the first occurrence of a suspicious fire. Other asylum centers have been arson targets in recent years.  Sweden has more refugees per capita than any other country in Europe; with a population of 9.5 million, the drastic increase of asylum seekers in 2015 caused tensions to rise between the Swedes and immigrants. Isolated attacks against immigrants have also increased in frequency.

This most recent suspected attack against asylum shelters in Sweden strains relations between immigrants and the Swedish community; thus, it remains to be seen if the country’s open door policy will remain in place.