Weapons and drugs confiscated by Swedish Customs. File photo: Jessica Gow / TT
Weapons and drugs confiscated by Swedish Customs. File photo: Jessica Gow / TT

Government wants to fight weapons smuggling from Balkans

A bulk of the unlicensed firearms in circulation in Sweden come from the Balkans and now the government wants to clamp down on smuggling from the region.

Speaking to news agency TT ahead of his Monday trip to Serbia and Bosnia-Hercegovina, Minister for Home Affairs Anders Ygeman said: “Fewer weapons on our streets is of course the overarching goal. Many of the weapons that land here come from the Balkans where they spread after the war.”

Ygeman will meet with his counterparts as well as with the police in Serbia and Bosnia-Hercegovina to discuss how to stop the inflow of weapons from the region to Sweden.

Ygeman said there is a large number of illegal firearms and hand grenades in circulation in Sweden, with nearly 1,000 weapons confiscated annually by police and customs. In 2014, over 100 people received gunshot wounds and 25 were fatally shot - the highest figures since 2000.

Several measures have been taken to reduce the number of shootings in Sweden, including the introduction of harsher punishments for those found guilty of weapons crimes.

Ygeman wants to launch a cooperation programme with the Serbs and to tighten the existing agreement between Sweden and Bosnia-Hercegovina.

A concrete measure that has been discussed in the past is a weapons amnesty in the Balkan region.

"We will of course discuss that," said Ygeman, "but I think the EU must play a part in funding it. In other words, the EU must help buy the surplus weapons."

Nobody knows exactly how many unlicensed firearms exist in Sweden, but according to Ygeman the prizes for weapons have not changed in recent years and that indicates that availability has not gone down.

"We can't lean back and feel satisfied. Instead, we must step up efforts to remove weapons from our streets," said Ygeman.

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