Hundreds of youths are rioting in the capital of a country proud of its reputation for peacefulness and social justice, apparently in response to unemployment and ill-treatment of immigrant asylum seekers.

Violence spread from the northern to the southern suburbs of Stockholm on Wednesday as young people threw stones, broke windows and set cars and, briefly, a police station office on fire. It was the fourth consecutive night of violence.

“It’s difficult to say why they’re doing this,” said a worker at a local youth activity center. “Maybe it’s anger at the law and order forces, maybe it’s anger at their own personal situation, such as unemployment or having nowhere to live.”

The spark for the riots appears to have been the police killing this month of a 69-year-old man wielding a machete. The violence then spread from Husby to other poor Stockholm suburbs.

“We see a society that is becoming increasingly divided and where the gaps, both socially and economically, are becoming larger,” said Rami Al-khamisi, co-founder of Megafonen, a group that works for social change in the suburbs.

“And the people out here are being hit the hardest. … We have institutional racism.”

As unemployment has risen in Sweden, some people have pointed to immigration as the problem, a trend evinced by the rise in the polls of the anti-immigrant party Sweden Democrats ahead of a general election next year.

Out of a total 103,000 immigrants to Sweden last year, 43,900 were refugees from war zones, almost a 50 percent increase from 2011. Nearly half of these were survivors of the fighting in Syria, Afghanistan or Somalia, and will get at least temporary residency.

Sweden ranks fourth in the absolute number of asylum seekers out of 44 industrialized countries, and second relative to its population, the U.N. reports.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

Reuters via Yahoo News:

After decades of practicing the “Swedish model” of generous welfare benefits, Stockholm has been reducing the role of the state since the 1990s, spurring the fastest growth in inequality of any advanced OECD economy.

While average living standards are still among the highest in Europe, successive governments have failed to substantially reduce long-term youth unemployment and poverty, which have affected immigrant communities worst.

Some 15 percent of the population are foreign-born, and unemployment among these stands at 16 percent, compared with 6 percent for native Swedes, according to OECD data.

Youth unemployment in Husby, at 6 percent, is twice the overall average across the capital.

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