The refugees dined by soft candlelight, allowing their cold, road-weary bodies to sink into plush velvet couches as they feasted on a spread of olives, dates and cinnamon buns.
Omar Hassan took one look at the cozy scene — the product of hours of effort by volunteers hoping to make the new arrivals feel welcome on their first night in Sweden — and knew he was home.
“The people of Sweden are very good,” said the grateful 34-year-old, fresh off a 4,000-mile journey from his native Iraq. “I want to make my life here.”
But behind the warm embrace, a very different reaction to refugees is brewing in Sweden. In this Scandinavian country famous for its progressive politics and unfailingly polite citizenry, a party with roots in the neo-fascist fringe has surged toward the top of recent opinion polls with a defiantly hostile message to refugees: Those on their way to Sweden should stay out. Many of those already here should go home.
The growing popularity of the far-right Sweden Democrats mirrors a backlash being felt across Europe as the continent reckons with a refugee crisis that has broken all modern records and shows no sign of abating. The impact can be seen in country after country, with far-right parties hammering away at authorities deemed too permissive in allowing those fleeing war and persecution to find a home in Europe.
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Related: Sweden’s Creepy Migrant Meme