Sweden: A Harbor of Hope

تم النشر: 18 سبتمبر 2015 15:03 CET

by Maude  Fröberg, Swedish Red Cross

They arrive by train, by car, by boat. The lights of the Swedish mainland suddenly visible in the dark, a harbor of hope. “Will this be where my life starts anew?”

Many are the thoughts among the asylum seekers reaching the border region of Malmö. Yet the welcome to the country is a telling sign of solidarity. Here, as elsewhere in Sweden, people have mobilized resources and engaged in voluntary work in a way rarely seen since the war in the Balkans during the 1990s.

A decisive call to political action on behalf of people fleeing to Europe was made by Ulrika Årehed Kågström, Secretary General, Swedish Red Cross, two weeks ago.

”The situation has become untenable. It’s time to call it by its proper name: A political crisis with humanitarian consequences. Now all good forces need to join hands, every action counts,” she said.

In the past week, Sweden has received over 5,200 asylum seekers, a record high number. Among them, numerous unaccompanied minors.

Volunteers and First Aiders from the Swedish Red Cross have quickly established a presence at the three railway stations in Malmö, Gothenburg and Stockholm. The mains task are to assist with injuries or other ailments, and to provide information in different languages on the process of asylum seeking and travelling in Sweden. Tracing requests to search for family members are also being put forward.

Being a friend

Hanaa Nadji is one of the Red Cross volunteers who works as an interpreter at Stockholm Railway Station. Now she is reaching out in Arabic to a man who fled from Iraq. For almost three months he has travelled over Syria and Turkey to Scandinavia. He is very grateful to receive care and medicine from the Red Cross.

“I can live without food, but not without protection,” says Hassan, as he wished to be called.

The initiatives from civil society are plentiful, and the role of spontaneous volunteers as a bridge builder between authorities has been crucial.

“Our role is to ensure that the arrival is as calm as possible, and that the people in need get assistance. It’s about treating injured feet for example, or simply providing healthy food.  Especially for the small children who have shown signs of dehydration,” says Lasse Lähnn, coordinator of the crisis response.

Up to now, Swedish Red Cross has received 36 million SEK (4,2 million Swiss Francs) in donations. One emerging trend is that people are now starting their own fundraising campaigns for the Red Cross, something that is both encouraged and recognized. In addition 10,000 people have contacted the Swedish Red Cross with the aim of becoming volunteers, commitments that will be realized through a range of activities, like teaching Swedish at asylum centers or through creating meaningful moments by being a friend.