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Ali Riva at Tensta's Future, a voluntary group working with young people at risk. Photo: Tom Sullivan/Radio Sweden
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Tensta is an ethnically mixed surburb to the north of Stockholm. Photo: Tom Sullivan/Radio Sweden
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A group of Swedish Somali parents patrol the streets of Tensta at the weekend. They were joined by dozens of other parents during the rioting. Only seven youths were arrested partly due to parents intervening. Tom Sullivan/Radio Sweden

‘Many Tensta youths have lost hope’

4:27 min

Last week a school and several cars were set alight as 60 young people pelted police with stones in Tensta, an ethnically mixed Stockholm suburb.

Some youth workers and local police blame the trouble on high unemployment and social exclusion – others put it down to criminal gangs and bored teenagers looking for excitement.

“They’re not real criminals,” says Ali Riva who heads up “Tenstas Future” – an organization aimed at getting teenagers off the streets at night and out of trouble.

“When people have no money in their pockets they tend to do stupid things,” he says.

Riva was responding to comments by Sweden’s integration minister who blamed the street violence on criminal elements.

Originally from Somalia, and a Tensta resident for more than 20 years, he set up Tenstas Future two years ago following a similar explosion of violence.

It’s just one of many grassroots organizations helping young unemployed adults and teenager with studies, job hunting and free time activities.

“We’ve been able to cut down on cars being burned out, and on break ins – there are a lot of different organizations working with this now,” he says.

But, he says, the recent explosion of violence shows that it’s not been enough.

No future

“I’m very worried, many young people here feel like they have no future. There’s at least 2,000  in this area who are completely out of the system – not in jobs, not in education and not getting welfare benefits.”

That’s a view shared by a local police chief who told Dagens Nyheter newspaper this week that the government’s integration policy has failed.

The leader of the district council, Ann-Katrin Åslund denies that the violence is an outburst of anger from a disaffected youth.  

“The summer is coming, it’s warm outside and school is ending and there are youngster who want excitement – and for people to write about Tensta,” she said. 

Åslund, from the Liberal Party, agrees with the government’s critics that more education and better job opportunities are the key to preventing further rioting. But she lays the blame for the slow pace of progress firmly with previous Social Democrat administrations.

Jobs not welfare

“When people arrived to Sweden we traditionally had this idea that we had to take care of them with social security and so on. But that's not the right approach - they want to have a job just like you and me,” she said.

“That’s how we’re working today, getting people into jobs. But it will take time as we have a legacy to deal with,” she said, adding that the council has promised summer jobs to every young person who wants one.

Walking around Tensta you hear many different views of why the trouble broke out now. Unemployment, good weather, boredom or even plain old mischief.

But few call the rioters criminals.

And everyone agrees that the areas nearly 50 percent unemployment rate has got to come down to give the younger generation hope for the future.

Reporter: Tom Sullivan. tom.sullivan@sr.se

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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