Library offers immigrants the chance to borrow a Swede
At a library in the Swedish town of Hultsfred, newly arrived immigrants were offered the chance to take a Swede home through a scheme aimed at aiding integration, Swedish Television reports.
Over 50 Swedes have been "borrowed" from the library since the initiative launched, and several other municipalities throughout Sweden have adopted the integration project, where newly arrived immigrants can go to a local library and choose from a list of Swedes who have agreed to take part in the scheme.
In Hultsfred, south-eastern Sweden, the project ran for a period of several weeks and proved successful. Robert Andersson was one of the Swedish volunteers who was on the borrowing list there and he was matched up with Abdulah Aloid, who recently arrived in Sweden from Syria. The two met at Abdulah's house for Arabic coffee and Swedish conversation.
Andersson told Swedish Television News that the meeting went well and that he was interested in learning about what life was like for Aloid in Syria, and what he wants to do in Sweden in the future.
The Swedes on the borrowing list at the Hultsfred library had listed different interests and possible topics of conversation. They range from chess and film to politics and religion.
The idea for the project came from Linda Åsgård, who works in the culture and recreation department at the Hultsfred municipality.
"I was kind of angry at the integration we have worked with for the past 35 years," Åsgård said. "The demand is all on immigrants to become Swedish and to find their own way into Swedish homes."
Åsgård said that just doesn't work and that it is just like an "iron curtain". She said she knew there were many immigrants and Swedes who did want to meet each other, but they did not know how or where. That is when she got the idea for the Borrow a Swede scheme.
Though it has now ended, Åsgård said there are plans to take the project further and that there are many participants, like Robert Andersson and Abdulah Aloid, who have decided to meet again.