Gabrielle Edo, 15 years-old, pictured, is one of 36,000 Syrians who have sought asylum in Sweden since the 2011 uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.
Sweden has for decades prided itself on offering a refuge for those fleeing oppression in other parts of the world. But an anti-immigrant party, the Sweden Democrats, has struck a chord with voters worried about declining welfares services.
5 Jun 2014. SODERTALJE, SWEDEN. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton
A pupil from a local school waves a Syrian flag during graduation celebrations in the town of Sodertalje. Approximately 40% of the city is made up of people with foreign backgrounds and of the 755 pupils at Gabrielle’s school only five have Swedish as their mother tongue.
Opinion polls show that a majority in Sweden still backs the liberal regime which over the decades has welcomed refugees from Chile and Yugoslavia to Somalia and Iraq.
But with around 16 percent of Swedes being born abroad the country has struggled to integrate many of the new arrivals and unemployment among immigrant groups is much higher than the national average.
4 Jun 2014. SODERTALJE, SWEDEN. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton
Afram Yakoub, chairman of the Assyrian Federation of Sweden is originally from Lebanon and moved because of the war. A decade ago questioning the policy of granting refuge to those fleeing oppression and war was almost taboo, even though a sizeable number of Swedes have long believed that it is too lenient.
Now high unemployment, declining welfare and worsening standards in schools have helped to put the debate center stage in the election campaign with the Social Democrat party likely to score its best ever general election result.
9 Jun 2014. SODERTALJE, SWEDEN. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton
31-year-old Stefan Jacobsson chairman of the far right Svenskarnas party (SVP) said "Immigration costs are enormous and it is the Swedish people who have to pay,"
The rise of the far-right has polarised a society that has long been proud of its peaceful and consensus-led politics. Last year skinheads attacked a peaceful demonstration against racism, leaving around 30 people injured and two people stab wounds.
Police arrested 28 neo-Nazis and tens of thousands of Swedes took to the streets the following weekend to protest against extreme-right violence.