g so, it’s tearing itself apart.

BY JAMES TRAUB
FEBRUARY 10, 2016

The Swedish Migration Agency in Malmo, the southern port city on the border with
Denmark, occupies a square brick building at the far edge of town. On the day that I was
there, Nov. 19, 2015, hundreds of refugees, who had been bused in from the train station,
queued up outside in the chill to be registered, or sat inside waiting to be assigned a place
for the night. Two rows of white tents had been set up in the parking lot to house those for
whom no other shelter could be found. Hundreds of refugees had been put in hotels a short
walk down the highway, and still more in an auditorium near the station.
When the refugee crisis began last summer, about 1,500 people were coming to Sweden
every week seeking asylum. By August, the number had doubled. In September, it doubled
again. In October, it hit 10,000 a week, and stayed there even as the weather grew colder. A
nation of 9.5 million, Sweden expected to take as many as 190,000 refugees, or 2 percent of
the population — double the per capita figure projected by Germany, which has taken the
lead in absorbing the vast tide of people fleeing the wars in Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere.

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That afternoon, in the cafeteria in the back of the Migration Agency building, I met with
Karima Abou-Gabal, an agency official responsible for the orderly flow of people into and
out of Malmo. I asked where the new refugees would go. “As of now,” she said wearily, “we
have no accommodation. We have nothing.” The private placement agencies with whom the
migration agency contracts all over the country could not offer so much as a bed. In Malmo
itself, the tents were full. So, too, the auditorium and hotels. Sweden had, at that very
moment, reached the limits of its absorptive capacity. That evening, Mikael Ribbenvik, a
senior migration official, said to me, “Today we had to regretfully inform 40 people that we
could [not] find space for them in Sweden.” They could stay, but only if they found space on
their own.
Nothing about this grim denouement was unforeseeable — or, for that matter, unforeseen. Vast
numbers of asylum-seekers had been pouring into Sweden both because officials put no obstacles in
their way and because the Swedes were far more generous to newcomers than were other European
countries. A few weeks earlier, Sweden’s foreign minister, Margot Wallstrom, had declared that if
the rest of Europe continued to turn its back on the migrants, “in the long run our system will
collapse.” The collapse came faster than she had imagined.
The vast migration of desperate souls from Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere has posed a moral test
the likes of which Europe has not faced since the Nazis forced millions from their homes in
search of refuge. Europe has failed that test. Germany, acutely aware that it was the author
of that last great refugee crisis, has taken in the overwhelming fraction of the 1 million
asylum-seekers who have reached Europe over the past 18 months. Yet the New Year’s Eve
2016 orgy of rape and theft in Cologne, in which migrants have been heavily implicated, may

2015. in 1942 the country began admitting Norwegians fleeing the Nazis. has. with immense effort and courage. Syria. and what turned out to be true.000 Syrians.force Chancellor Angela Merkel to reconsider the open door. saving much of the population. Austria. for its part. Instead. and much of the world. a country that prides itself on generosity to strangers. helped migrants pass through their territories to the West — until mid-November. Most of Europe. and ultimately intolerable. During World War II. were sent back to their homelands. cost that Sweden has paid for its unshared idealism. their standard-bearer on this issue. was that Germany. Accepting refugees is part of what it means to be Swedish. others. Sweden. and a few others could not absorb the massive flow on their own. the obligation to accept refugees was embedded in such core documents as the Convention on Human Rights. Congress has sought to block President Barack Obama’s offer to accept a meager 10. Chileans fleeing from Gen. it has become a collective failure. and then Danish Jews. often to their death. Yet what Margot Wallstrom meant. by contrast. The United States. In the United States. High Commissioner for Refugees were founded to ensure that states honored those commitments. the Refugee Convention. The refugee crisis could. As Sweden began to build its social democratic state after the war. Stockholm residents take part in a candle light vigil to show their solidarity with refugees on Sept. Signatories pledged not to turn back refugees with a “well-founded fear of being persecuted. This is the story of the exorbitant. Her policy of generosity is now being openly attacked by her own ministers.N. 14. Europeans made good on this pledge when they welcomed hundreds of thousands who fled from Communist oppression in Eastern Europe. when they collectively began blocking asylum-seekers who did not hail from Iraq. as Wallstrom feared. and Eritreans fleeing forced conscription. coeditor of a book on Swedish refugee policy whose English translation is titledReaching a State of Hope. including many Jews. Balkan countries. have been a collective triumph for Europe. Sweden took in the Jews of Denmark. and has passed legislation authorizing officials to seize migrants’ assets to pay for their care. Sweden took in the Jews of Denmark. In recent years the Swedes have taken in Iranians fleeing from the Shah. Hungary. When Europe reconstituted itself in the aftermath of the war. saving much of the population. The ethnically homogeneous nations of Eastern Europe have refused to take any refugees at all. says that while Sweden jealously guarded its ethnic homogeneity through the 1930s. During World War II. or Afghanistan. of course — to demonstrate its commitment to refugees. And then there is Sweden. England has agreed to take only those refugees arriving directly on its shores from the Middle East. Denmark has taken out ads in Arabic-language newspapers warning refugees that they will not be welcome. Sweden did not need to sign treaties — though it did. Many who made the treacherous journeys from the shattered cities and villages of Central and Eastern Europe were treated humanely. where politicians eager to exploit fear of terrorism have found a receptive audience.” Organizations like the U. Augusto Pinochet. has built fences along its borders to keep refugees from even passing through. and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. turned its back. The right to refuge was understood as a universal principle that all civilized states would honor. Par Frohnert. the ready acceptance of . Then came Estonians and other Balts. accepted nearly half a million people who fled Vietnam after the South fell in 1975. (Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images) World War II created 40 million refugees.

mainly Bosnians. pointed out to me that some recent . a former diplomat and now the senior foreign policy advisor to the Moderate Party (which Swedes view as “conservative”).” Nowadays.000 — slightly greater than the inflow to the United States.” Etzler reassured me.” she pointed out. But wouldn’t the job of integrating the new wave of asylum-seekers be vastly harder. The system worked — or at least that was the Swedish consensus.000 former Yugoslavs. There were neo-Nazis marching in the streets. they’re our doctors. the Bosnians “are ministers in our government. health care. The 160.refugees became a symbol of the national commitment to moral principle. whether it could integrate so many new arrivals with low levels of skills.” Swedes feel especially proud that they have so successfully integrated a Muslim population. and the like would do just as well. but Somalis and Kurds. on average. Diana Janse. and more expensive? “A strong state can take care of many things. I would be reassured that Sweden has done this before and that somehow or other it would do it again. and is very much a part of the consensus-oriented progressive establishment that runs Sweden today.” He meant both that refugees had become good Swedes and that the social democratic model was unthinkable without the commitment to accepting them. It seemed almost impolite to point out that. I met many critics who were prepared to raise impolite questions about whether Sweden could afford to lavish generous benefits on so large a population. “people thought they would bring their war to the Swedish suburbs. the figure has been closer to 80. organized. And that was before Cologne. more disruptive. Merely to ask whether Sweden could integrate Afghans today as it had Bosnians two decades before was to risk accusations of racism. whether a progressive and extremely secular country could socialize a generation of conservative Muslim newcomers. she says.000 refugees a year. Solicitous volunteers waited to help asylum-seekers at the central train station in Stockholm even though virtually all refugees were being processed in Malmo — where the Red Cross operated a far larger set-up behind the train station. who studies refugee issues at the Arena Group. By that time.000 asylum-seekers who came to Sweden last year is double the number it has ever accepted before. which of course also sees itself as the world’s shelter from tyranny. Iraqis. and practice a more moderate version of Islam. When I worried out loud that the country was racing off a cliff. came in the 1990s. The economy was at the lowest point since the 1930s. our neighbors. Aron Etzler. In the 1980s. but has a population almost 35 times greater. high-quality education. cheerful. In Stockholm I went to see Lisa Pelling. Sweden accepted not just Iranians and Eritreans. Pelling had once served as international secretary of the Social Democrats’ youth wing.Sweden is the only country I have spent time in where the average person seems to be more idealistic than I am. Pelling was confident that the new wave of Syrians. In recent years. More than 100. “When the Bosnians came. Everyone seemed calm. maternal leave. and unemployment insurance. Sweden built a system designed to deliver to refugees the same extensive social benefits that Swedes gave themselves — housing. Sweden was taking about 40. the Bosnians were better educated than the newcomers are. Yet the past may be a poor guide to the present. It was a given that Sweden had benefited from its commitment to providing shelter to those in need. a think tank associated with Sweden’s largest trade union. secretary general for the Left Party — formerly the Communist Party — told me that refugees “helped us build the Sweden we wanted.

The Swedes were efficient and extraordinarily protective of their charges. France. and translated for him. Fares Krit. Edo was a Yazidi from Mosul. the first station across the Danish border.000 to be smuggled by boat to Greece. while conditions at the refugee camp in Calais. The interview line moved smartly. who had emigrated to Sweden years earlier. Walid Ali Edo. by several dozen border police officials. and his three small children raced out of town. and then crossed Europe by foot.” she said. This had no effect on refugee numbers. was remarkably calm and quiet. When the Islamic State extremists reached the area in June 2014. Dari. but they’re both dogs. I asked Edo why he didn’t stay in Diyarbakir. whose privacy they feared I would violate. I don’t recall hearing a child cry. “It means ‘opinion corridor’ — the views you can’t move outside of. The Yazidis practice a syncretic faith that the Islamic State regards as a heresy far worse than Judaism or Christianity. amused. Krit relayed my question. or rather. The refugees were greeted in Hyllie. “You have the black dog and the white dog. Refugees in Germany have rioted at food lines. Krit persuaded them to come to Sweden.’” I pointed out that Diyarbakir was a largely Kurdish city. in southeastern Turkey. Officials had abandoned an earlier effort to gain .000 young Afghan men who had entered Sweden as “unaccompanied minors” fare? How would they behave in the virtual absence of young Afghan women? But she could barely raise these questions in political debate. waiting to be assigned a bed for the night. she wondered. Sweden instituted a temporary (and thus Schengen-compliant) program to check the documents of everyone reaching its border by train. In the weeks before I arrived in Sweden. flawlessly proficient in English. said to me. male and female. by contrast.” Merely to ask whether Sweden could integrate Afghans today as it had Bosnians two decades before was to risk accusations of racism. When I arrived at the migration office a little past noon. I spoke to Edo’s uncle.” Given Swedish hypersensitivity to ethnic stereotyping. and train. the refugees were escorted upstairs to a line of waiting buses. Some recent arrivals had to wait a day or two — but no longer — to be processed. 50-odd people stood on a line that snaked outside the building in order to be interviewed. including Somalis. Pashto. I’m hoping that Edo did not try out that expression at his asylum interview. `I can not live with Muslims.asiktskorridor. which took them to the Migration Agency office in Malmo. Nobody shouted. his wife. paid $3. as well as translators who speak Arabic. “We have this expression in Swedish. they began systematically killing Yazidi men and raping and enslaving women. will the 10. I had had to wear down several officials just to gain the right to talk to refugees. the first city in Sweden that anyone arriving by car or train from Denmark would reach. known as “The Jungle” are notoriously dismal. and a fraction of those arriving by car. in a whisper. Krit. had been notably unsuccessful joining the job market. though it did have the bureaucratic virtue of channeling virtually everyone through Malmo. while another 200-300 asylumseekers stood or sat inside. and then trudged 50 miles north to Dohuk in Iraqi Kurdistan. and then replied. How. There. Nervous refugees brandished crumpled papers at anyone who looked official. Somali. they had made their way to Diyarbakir. The office is staffed by squads of helpful young people. car. Edo. and Tigre — the chief language of Eritrea. and exceptionally polite. Over the course of a year. The atmosphere in Malmo.000-20. Despite the European Union’s Schengen legal regime permitting free travel between 26 countries. “He says. the government had begun making modest adjustments to its refugee policy. unarmed. I spoke to an Iraqi.generations of Swedish refugees.

financial support if they have no money. terrified at the prospect of new millions on the march. . far more Afghans than Iraqis were applying for asylum in Sweden. From there the refugees would be sent to a temporary facility in Malmo until long-term space opened up. if Sweden returns them.background information about applicants. Nevertheless. “It is getting dark and cold. Sweden does not take economic migrants. it now accepts slightly less than half of Afghan applicants. Karima Abou-Gabal of the Migration Agency told me that they had begun sending asylees to Boden. At the same time. authorities deny almost all migrants from Albania or Kosovo. they will face arrest. for this reason. In late January. permits the authoritarian Eritrean government to play a cynical game in which they let citizens flee and then demand that they pay a tax on their relatively lavish earnings abroad — a kind of involuntary remittance. and thus automatically accepts such applications. and access to emergency medical and dental care and to health care that cannot be postponed. and has permitted all asylees to bring in a wide range of family members. Large majorities of Iraqis and Afghans are also accepted. (I was told that Eritrean embassies track down citizens abroad and demand payment. placing them in a specially protected category. This. too. People like Diana Janse believe that Sweden must find the hardness of heart to carry out such orders. Afghanistan poses a particularly thorny problem. a period which had stretched to as long as two weeks. That may now change. Sweden has promised to take care of every refugee while their application for asylum is pending. and took a photograph and a set of fingerprints. many were unaccompanied minors. in the remote north. Sweden has accepted those fleeing persecution by nonstate actors as well as governments. Sweden has extraordinary laws protecting minors: Refugees who arrive without parents are taken into the country’s social services bureaucracy.) The system guarantees a perpetual flow of Eritreans. has said that it will not grant asylum to those from relatively safe parts of Afghanistan. Sweden has made only the most modest efforts to ensure that rejected applicants actually leave. The Swedish Migration Agency is responsible for deciding who does and does not receive asylum. The country is so profoundly insecure that many of its 32 million citizens might have a colorable claim to asylum. the country’s interior minister instructed the Migration Agency to deport approximately one-half of applicants who are now expected to be turned down. or barracks somewhere in Sweden to wait for adjudication of their application for asylum. the backlog has grown to a point that that process can take over a year. Sweden has traditionally interpreted the standards for asylum far more liberally than most of its neighbors have. Many — no one seems to know how many — remain. Germany.” she conceded. When I asked Pierre Karatzian. “the applicant is entitled to accommodation if they cannot arrange it themselves. however. a nation that is autocratic but currently peaceful. according to the Migration Agency’s website. date of birth. has recently been tightened. By the end of 2015. a spokesman for the Migration Agency. and home country. The agency assumes that anyone fleeing Syria has a well-founded fear of persecution or death. now interviewers simply asked their name. Since 2005. Afghans have lately swelled the great river of refuge-seekers. (This rule.” Their children have the same access to education and health care that Swedish children enjoy. living in the shadows. why Eritreans qualified. sports facility. operated by each municipality though financed by the federal government. dormitory. At that point they would be sent to a converted hotel. if it is to care well for those who remain. During that period. he said that many Eritreans flee the country rather than face the draft.) The Migration Agency accepts applications from thousands of people from Eritrea.

had told me that Iran forced the Afghans to serve in the war in Syria. Valdana Andersson. but the migrants get free food and medical care. A border policeman told me. she rejoined. mandates age-testing. however. Most of them. including among volunteers. In Sweden. “You cannot share a room with the boys. One of the volunteers was a Farsi-speaking Iranian who served as a translator for the Afghans. to which their families had fled in recent years in order to escape the violence in Afghanistan. where growth has been more robust. these were still children who had experienced a world of suffering. however. opinion was surprisingly anti-refugee.” I had heard the same view a few months earlier in Hungary.” Back at the Red Cross station. arsonists attacked five structures set aside for refugee housing. the fountain of charity has run dry as well. and then. it turned out.” Did that qualify them for asylum status? Legally. lest I give inadvertent clues to the address. a somewhat rough-and-ready system using measurements of bone density. A poll in early November found that 41 percent of Swedes thought the country was taking too many refugees. There they lived as stateless people. it didn’t matter. better educated ones. (Nevertheless. doctors have largely refused to apply the test. among others. Others repeated this story. up from 29 percent in September. Andersson said to me that a “minor” who looks to be 30 or so will be told. if there’s anything left over. A few extremists have taken matters into their own hands: In October. had grown up in northeastern Iran. such tests constitute an invasion of privacy. officials simply accepted their word for their age. “Mostly the Swedes who haven’t met them.) Denmark. This seemed unlikely. One could hardly think of a worse moment to ask citizens to make sacrifices on behalf of outsiders. “Last summer. you help other people. generally unable to find jobs or go to school. that most Swedes seemed to welcome refugees. When I said to Paula Bieler. You have to go to the Migration Agency and find a [new] room with them. The translator said that he did not believe many of the new arrivals would ever be able to integrate into Sweden’s liberal. the country in Europe most outspokenly hostile to refugees — the anti-Sweden. Some of them. or “boy play. and has threatened others with deportation if they did not agree to do so. Europe has not experienced economic growth in almost a decade. Swedish authorities have become so jittery that I was not allowed to see any of the facilities for minors in Malmo. Whether from Afghanistan or Iran. my grandmother almost starved to death in the hospital. a member of Parliament from the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrat party. he said. among others. since few of the refugees seemed to be Shiites. Since they arrived without documents. a recent report from Human Rights Watch concludes that Iran has paid some migrants to fight in Syria. arrived in Sweden at the very moment when the supply of goodwill was petering out. the refugee advocate.While I was in Malmo I paid several visits to a huddle of trailers just behind the central train station. Other surveys have found that older. and Iran’s Shiite rulers would hardly hand weapons to Afghan Sunnis — especially to fight Syrian Sunnis. It’s the top politicians . were certainly not minors. I had. an official at Malmo’s Social Services Agency. Lisa Pelling. less educated people had more negative views of refugees than younger. individualistic society. where the Red Cross had set up a welcome center for minors. arguing that it is inexact and that. mandates age-testing. told me that many said they had been sexually abused by older men as part of Afghanistan’s tradition ofbacha bazi. since Sweden provides asylum to virtually anyone who arrives as an unaccompanied minor. In the United States. I think a government’s job is to take care of its own people first. in any case. a somewhat rough-and-ready system using measurements of bone density. Denmark.

How will adding 150. and I expected to hear a pitched battle over the dangers to national security posed by the newcomers. Sweden has not suffered a serious attack on its soil. the national mood could change very quickly if it did. A poll last August found that slightly more Swedes identified with the Sweden Democrats than any other. honor. Are native Swedes to think of their own extraordinarily stable thousand-year-old culture as simply one among many national identities? Thomas Gur. Last November. “You cannot talk about social trust. Swedes have proved remarkably willing to accept a burden most other Europeans wish to shuck. while ordinary Swedes may think in more prosaic terms.” Bieler objects. recoiled when I compared the party to France’s National Front.” There are more visceral fears. says that it is precisely this reaction that accounts for the popularity of the Sweden Democrats. the intelligentsia generally view the refugees as a new contribution to Sweden’s tapestry of diversity. not to immigrants themselves. This last prediction may well prove accurate. and elsewhere. but to the official state ideology of integration. I arrived in the country days after the Paris attacks.and journalists who live in the center of Stockholm. and thus casts Sweden as a gorgeous mosaic. Sweden had just three residential areas where significant numbers of citizens did not work and did not have access to good schools — the indispensable instrument of social mobility in Sweden’s high-tech economy. a group of party members traveled to Lesbos — the Greek island which serves as the main transit point for refugees coming from Turkey — to distribute leaflets contradicting Sweden’s welcoming embrace. Switzerland. the slums that have become incubators of alienation for many North African immigrants. a party drenched in anti-Semitism. Swedes do not raise the subject of terrorism when they question the virtues of accepting asylum-seekers. Hungary. The leaflet warned that Swedish society would never accept forced marriages and polygamy — transparent code for “Islam” — and that refugees would be housed in tents and then deported. a widely published critic of Sweden’s open-door policy. Gur says that 20 years ago.” says Gur. and all over Europe — is national integration. honor. Unlike Americans. who have forged a tight alliance in order to keep the Sweden Democrats from power. Scarcely anyone raised the issue.” That’s hyperbolic. as has happened with North Africans in the French banlieues. the daughter of Polish Jews. has now reached 186. which asks Swedes as well as newcomers to integrate into a world that celebrates diversity. Bieler. That number. Austria. as it has all over Europe. Like other right-wing parties in Europe. shame. This has terrified both the ruling Social Democrats and the Moderates. I . Far-right parties now rank first in polls in France.” says Gur. “You cannot talk about concepts like marriage. The reaction against the refugees has put wind in the sails of the Sweden Democrats. the Sweden Democrats have tried in recent years to move away from their thuggish and quasi-fascist origins. shame. he says. But the Sweden Democrats have taken a hard line on the refugees.” The fear is that the recent generations of refugees have become isolated from Swedish life. But the issue that is raised — in Sweden as in Germany. which cannot be raised inside the opinion corridor.000 refugees from very different cultures change Sweden? Paula Bieler of the Sweden Democrats describes herself as a “nationalist” who fears that an increasingly multicultural Sweden is in danger of losing its identity — “the feeling that you live in a society that is also your home. “You cannot talk about concepts like marriage. “You cannot talk about social trust. Nevertheless.

smaller. I often asked what this new generation of newcomers was going to do for work. including Norway. It is. and they seem confident that it can do again what it has done before. to help make up the difference. though old people in Sweden seem awfully self-sufficient. as well as an implicit admission of failure. As Ivar Arpi. said to me. Virtually everyone I spoke to on the pro-refugee side insisted that Sweden was not paying a price for its open-ended commitment to refugees. An observation that is now taken for granted in the United States — that values matter. you scan your own suitcase. (You don’t just check yourself in at the airport. But for Sweden. only 52 percent of immigrants from non-Western countries are — a gap that has grown rapidly in recent years. it’s something new.) The answer was always the same: Sweden’s “aging population” would provide vast job opportunities in personal health care. cultures change. and safer than any American inner city. Tino Sanandaji. (Since virtually all Swedish immigrants arrived as refugees. and could not acknowledge that it could not pass. Where will the additional funds come from? It’s not clear yet. a columnist at the daily newspaper Svenska Dagbladet and an inveterate critic of the country’s refugee policy.” said Aron Etzler of the Left Party. I’ve never seen a more automated. Even before Sweden slammed on the brakes. Society is there to give people the tools. Sweden expects to spend about 7 percent of its $100 billion budget next year on refugees. “People change. What is certainly true is that refugees take far too long to join the workforce and remain unemployed in far larger numbers than native Swedes. even for one of Europe’s richest countries. says while 82 percent of adult Swedes are in the workforce. it seemed that the country had posed for itself a test that it could not pass. The real number is somewhat higher. that they can be only partly changed by social institutions — is treated in Sweden as a form of racism.” Swedes have good reason to have faith in their social democratic model. Low levels of achievement aren’t “in people’s DNA.visited several of these areas in Malmo. and troubling. “People have lost friends over this. have done so as well. I’ve had agonizing discussions with my mother and my little sister.) While only one-fifth of Swedes fail to graduate from high school. The figures are yet higher for the Afghan unaccompanied minors. the figure for immigrants is one-third. Sweden has virtually no space for unskilled workers. which largely goes to fortify the very countries from which people are now fleeing. The refugee issue has split Sweden’s genteel consensus as no other question has in recent memory. that they are transmitted culturally.” It is very hard to find a middle ground between “we must” and . You can’t push someone’s wheelchair if they’re going to cross the street on their own. Despite widespread reports that Syrian refugees are drawn largely from the educated middle class. an economist and critic of refugee policy whose work has become so controversial in the Swedish media that he asked me not to name his university. the two words are often used interchangeably. and one-third have not progressed beyond ninth grade. Sanandaji predicts that the new refugees will have an even harder time adjusting than their immediate predecessors have. in any case. do-it-yourself economy. Sweden has already cut 30 percent of its very generous foreign aid budget. Other European donors. since the costs of educating and training those who have already received asylum are not included in that figure. The financial costs. but since the cost of caring for refugees is considered a form of development assistance. families are divided against one another. 60 percent of which go to immigrants. Sanandaji points out that the consequence for Sweden’s generous state is a sharp increase in welfare payments. albeit a long-term one. statistics compiled by the Swedish Migration Agency show that half the new arrivals do not have a high-school degree. but rather gaining a benefit. double the 2015 budget. and they looked vastly cleaner. were daunting. Maybe that’s true.

000 less than the maximum it had projected — Sweden had finally run out of room. Since many refugees arrive without passports or other valid forms of identification. it is literally impossible to imagine a solution to the crisis. I asked her if she feared that Sweden was in the process of committing suicide. She had just learned that since the right to 450 days of parental leave per child enshrined in Swedish laws also applies to women who arrive in the country with children under seven. but those relatives would not qualify for social benefits. Iraq. In late December. as will the Iraqi campaign to retake Sunni regions — eventually. refugee agency. An EU plan to distribute 160.N. would receive a three-year temporary residency permit with the possibility of renewal. in fact. A kind of hydraulic catastrophe is now building up over Europe and North Africa.000 refugees — 30. The refugee crisis has. Prime Minister Stefan Lofven disclosed that migrants would no longer be granted permanent asylum. no longer described as temporary. and patience. In November.000 refugees . Cross-border immigration has. The Russian bombing of civilian centers in Syria is bound to further swell the ranks. In all likelihood. and Afghanistan to continue moving westwards. and no one cared to tally them. and above all. but because Sweden had no interest in out-bidding its neighbors to woo refugees. Unless the negotiations now underway between the Assad regime and the Syrian rebels miraculously succeed. 67. since unemployed women also receive maternal benefits. The valves of refugee admission in Europe and the United States are closing while the taps in the Middle East remain wide open. and cleared by the U. more people will cross into Europe. The refugee tide may not even have crested. ended free movement across borders. soon after. at least intermittently. Lebanon. and thus no longer become eligible for the massive package of social benefits that comes with it. for in January came the announcement that 80.“we can’t. Applicants. The new regulations.3 million migrants will arrive in Europe in both 2016 and 2017. if approved. Mosul — from the Islamic State.” One of the few people I spoke to who was seeking one was Diana Janse of the Moderates. refugees could qualify for several years’ worth of paid leave — even without working. The International Monetary Fund now estimates that an average of 1. After taking 160. The flow is now backing up in Greece. and Jordan. Henceforth. where tens of thousands of refugees have beentrapped. the new rules sharply curtailed the number of asylum-seekers arriving overland who would be permitted to enter the country. violated the Schengen regimen. Austria imposed similar rules. permitting refugees from Syria. But they won’t find a welcome there. At first the Swedish government made several very modest concessions to this ugly reality. money. at least temporarily. not only because it was unaffordable. Deaths at sea around Greece and Italy totaled 368.193 migrants crossed the Mediterranean to reach Europe in January — 13 times as many as the year before. At this moment. Despite freezing weather and high seas. and more will die trying.000 refuges would face deportation. come to an almost complete stop. than was the case in 2015. Even that wasn’t the final sign of Sweden’s reluctant regression to the European mean. She was convinced that Sweden needed to end the practice of giving Swedish social payments to refugees. no one would be permitted to enter Sweden without proper identity documents. Greece and other Balkan states are.” Janse replied. the flow of refugees from Syria will not diminish. Sweden now accepts only those refugees arriving directly from Turkey. one of the signal achievements of the European Union. Sweden finally threw in the towel. “It’s an open question. She worried that the costs of Sweden’s generosity were only beginning to come due. Refugees could still bring in spouses and children under “family reunification” policy.

“If we cannot handle this as a European union. “We are a continent of 500 million people. If their neighbors had pitched in. The refugee crisis has forced Europeans to choose between the moral universalism they profess and the ancient identities they have inherited. The refugee crisis threatens European foundations as even the recent euro crisis did not. At the Davos forum in January.5 million Syrian refugees. while countless others will continue risking their lives in desperate Mediterranean crossings. Christian homeland — just as many people in the Middle East have reclaimed the sectarian identities they had seemed prepared to discard. as a consequence. tens or hundreds of thousands of people will be trapped in the maelstrom of Syria and Iraq. accepting only those vetted by U. Jordan. and Lebanon — as Canada agreed to do in November. Then.N. white and Christian.” Lofven went on to predict. Yet it need not have ended this way.” But Europe did not cooperate. even the hypocrisy of political correctness — their opinion corridor — may have been an indispensable adjunct to national self-sacrifice. Already the Schengen rules lie in tatters. they were inundated. By far the likeliest outcome is that Europe will close off its borders to refugees arriving overland. is increasingly isolated inside her own country and even her own party. and Chancellor Angela Merkel. There is simply no getting around the fact that if other nations declare that they are full.” Something even greater is at risk. Only Germany is still accepting large numbers. Many are bound to be turned back at the border. The swift rightward movement of European politics has convinced many centrist and left-wing political leaders that a generous policy towards refugees will cost them their office. New arrivals may be blocked in Turkey. Eastern Europe has already reasserted its status as a white. Turkey already shelters more than 2.2 billion to expand care for refugees and stem their onward flow. They had no special obligation to act. and cannot be expected to simply continue absorbing millions more. and cannot be expected to simply continue absorbing millions more. Can we blame them? No more than an individual can be blamed for declining to act heroically. but as a community of shared values. or the valves must open. who has personally championed the open-door policy. This is precisely what most of the critics in Sweden advocate for. The Swedes responded because they could not accept that outcome. officials and arriving directly by airplane from Turkey.said bluntly. They had behaved admirably. Sweden could have afforded the price of its remarkable generosity. Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven. “the European Union in itself is at risk.equitably among member states has failed so miserably that only 272 were relocated in the last four months of 2015. they did so because they believed it was right.5 million Syrian refugees. It is also what the European Union itself now foresees as the best solution to the problem. . Either the taps must close. if we met this as a union and not as individual member states. And the rest? They will back up at various European borders. Late last year. we could easily handle this task if we cooperated. The Europe that rose from the cataclysm of World War II understood itself not simply as a collection of peoples. forcing a step back from the moral precipice. Turkey already shelters more than 2. the EUagreed to pay Turkey $3.

James Traub is a contributing editor at Foreign Policy. Feb. Iraq. Correction. the new rules meant that no asylum-seekers arriving overland would be permitted to enter Sweden. a fellow at the Center on International Cooperation.Now the Europe where the Enlightenment was born may well be making the same choice. 2016: Balkan states are. Feb. An earlier version of this article said the Baltic states were doing so. Europe may fail on both counts. 2016: Since many refugees arrive without passports or other valid forms of identification. and Afghanistan to continue moving westward. Americans have no reason to be complacent. secular consensus. Correction. but rejecting the refugees also shakes one of the great pillars of that consensus. Sweden’s new rules sharply curtailed the number of asylum-seekers arriving overland who would be permitted to enter the country. 11. 11. (@jamestraub1) SHARE + 111964 SHARES . It is all too possible that we will do the exact same thing. at least intermittently. permitting refugees from Syria. An earlier version of this article said that because refugees possess neither European citizenship nor Swedish visas. and author of the book John Quincy Adams: Militant Spirit. driving the refugees from its doorstep while succumbing to right-wing nationalism. The Muslim influx threatens Europe’s liberal.