September 6, 2014 / 10:58 AM / 5 years ago

Cars torched in poor Stockholm suburb as election nears: police

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - At least 20 cars were set on fire overnight in a poor immigrant suburb of Stockholm, police said on Saturday, days before an election in which joblessness and Sweden’s open door asylum policy are major issues.

Sweden suffered its worst riots in years in May 2013, when youths burnt hundreds of cars and battled police in the capital’s poor suburbs for a week.

Gert Rosvall, a Stockholm police station officer, said vehicles had been torched in seven or eight places in Norsborg. Witnesses reported seeing a group of 20 to 50 people in the area at the time of the fires but no one had been arrested.

“This is about some sort of social unrest,” Rosvall said. “It is some kind of statement against society, but exactly what that statement is, we don’t know.”

In August, cars were also torched in the suburb of Rinkeby, which has Stockholm’s highest unemployment level.

“Whether there is any connection to that, or the fact that elections are coming up, we don’t know,” Rosvall said.

Opinion polls suggest anti-immigration Sweden Democrats will take about 10 percent of votes in the Sept. 14 election, which would be their best ever result, as a growing number of voters question the cost of the country’s open door asylum policy.

Centre right Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, whose government alliance is facing defeat, put immigration at the top at the political agenda in an August speech.

While pointing to the importance of helping people fleeing from conflicts such as the one in Syria, he said the cost of receiving asylum seekers would leave little room for more spending to boost jobs and schools.

Reporting by Sven Nordenstam; Editing by Alistair Scrutton and Catherine Evans

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