Malmö is the third largest city in Sweden and the sixth largest in Scandinavia, with a population of over 300,000 inhabitants. As with other cities with high immigration levels, fostering an environment of inclusion and cohesion is one of Malmö's biggest challenges, in particular with neighbourhoods tending to be increasingly segregated along socioeconomic lines. With this in mind, the city has launched several projects and initiatives (such as Communities That Care) to both promote cohesion for its inhabitants and counter violent extremism, as well as participating in prevention programmes on a national level.
Sweden has had a longstanding presence of far-right violent extremist groups: the Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM), an openly racist, anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic and pro-Hitler violent group, was founded in Sweden in 1997. However, extremism in general has been on the rise in recent years though. Estimates show around 300 people have joined terror groups in Syria and Iraq since 2012, 150 of which are believed to have returned. Sweden was also victim of domestic terrorism with a truck attack in 2017 that killed five people and injured 15 others. As in other European countries, these events have sparked anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiments, increasing social polarisation but also support for far-right movements. While Sweden was always perceived as one of the most tolerant liberal democracies in Europe, the country made the headlines in September 2018 when the far-right political party Sweden Democrats, originally founded by neo-fascist extremists, gained 17.7% of the votes in the national elections, more than triple its 2010 score when it first entered parliament. At the same time, the NRM’s pro-violent membership basis has grown by one third in 2016.
Concerned with growing Islamist extremism, the Swedish government appointed a national coordinator to safeguard democracy against violent extremism in June 2014 to improve cooperation between governmental agencies, municipalities and organisations on P/CVE efforts. Along with several other EU countries Sweden criminalised in 2017 so called 'terror travelling' - the act of travelling to another country to fight in the name of terrorist organisations. In 2018 Sweden deleted the national coordinator position, creating instead the Swedish Center for Preventing Violent Extremism, launched within the framework of the Swedish Crime Prevention Council and tasked with developing knowledge-based and cross-sector work. The centre’s four main tasks include promoting preventive work on national, regional and local levels; working to attain a higher degree of coordination and effectiveness in respect of preventive measures; providing needs-based support to actors on all levels; and collecting and distributing knowledge and research on violent extremism.
Within the Swedish Defence University, a national centre for asymmetric threats and terrorism studies (CATS) has been tasked with developing and disseminating knowledge about these types of threats to societal security and resilience. The centre functions as a trusted 'second opinion' for policy-makers and can introduce perspectives that may be difficult to identify within traditional bureaucracy.
The Malmö municipality focuses on preventing radicalisation among young people, but also works with those who have crossed into violent extremism and are in danger of harming themselves or others. The preventative measures are offered to youths up to 18 years of age, or in some cases 21 years, and include a support phone number. Malmö is also the only Swedish member of LIAISE (Local Institutions Against Violent Extremism). LIAISE is an EU project featuring 12 European municipalities, working in collaboration to support local and regional authorities and share experiences on preventing radicalisation.
Malmö currently has a guiding principles document in place to describe its current stance on preventative and safeguarding actions within the context of radicalisation and extremism. In this document, Malmö attaches special importance to the role of schools and civil society organisations, and their unique ability to foster a child or youth into a healthy context of belonging as a means of preventing radicalisation. The document also specifies that the municipality can work on a motivational and voluntary basis with individuals over 18 years old, however social workers and caretakers from social services are better positioned to support adults turning to extremism. Rehabilitative consultation teams are also in place for former criminals and violent extremists.