STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - An anti-immigrant party won seats in the Swedish parliament for the first time in an election on Sunday, in the latest sign of a backlash in Europe against immigration.
Below are some of the countries where anti-immigrant sentiment appears to be on the rise or where governments have moved to impose new restrictions on immigration or ethnic groups like the Roma.
Two years after the death of Joerg Haider, the founder of Austria’s modern far-right, immigration remains a hot topic.
The anti-foreigner Freedom party, which captured 17.5 percent of the votes at national level two years ago, has called for a special vote on whether to ban minarets and Islamic face veils as part of its campaign for a regional election in Vienna next month. Its leader Heinz-Christian Stache is also angling to become the capital’s mayor.
The new government of Prime Minister David Cameron is moving to fulfil campaign pledges to restrict immigration in Britain, which had the second highest net inflow of immigrants in the 27-nation EU last year after Italy.
Among planned measures, a permanent cap on migrants from outside the EU will be set in April. A poll this month showed 64 percent of Britons believe the current level of immigration is making their country “a worse place to live.” However, the far-right British National Party failed to make much of an impact in the recent election and is in disarray.
Bulgaria’s anti-Roma Attack party became the fourth largest group in parliament last year, winning 9.4 percent of the vote. The party argues for the demolition of Roma ghettos and cutting off social aid to Roma who don’t send their children to school.
The right-wing populist Danish People’s Party, which warns of a creeping Islamification of Denmark, has been the third biggest in parliament since 2001 and was boosted by a wave of anti-Muslim sentiment after the Mohammad cartoon crisis in 2005.
In the last election in 2007, it won 25 seats in the 179-seat parliament with 13.8 percent of the vote. Some recent polls have put its support closer to 16 percent.
FRANCE The far-right National Front (FN) of Jean-Marie Le Pen has been a force in French politics since the late 1980s, reaching a high-point in support during the 2002 presidential election.
The FN saw its support fall in the 2007 vote, in part because conservative Nicolas Sarkozy ran a tough-on-crime campaign that drew some of its supporters, but the party rebounded in a regional vote in March.
This summer President Sarkozy launched a drive to repatriate Roma and strip some criminals of foreign origin of their French nationality, drawing fierce criticism from the church, rights groups, opposition parties and the EU. His government is also poised to become the first in Europe to ban full Islamic face veils, known as burqas, in public.
Far-right parties have made gains at state level but have not come near the five percent mark needed to enter the federal parliament. Germany has had a net immigrant outflow in recent years. However, public concerns about integrating the country’s large Turkish population appear to be on the rise. Polls showed a solid majority of the public supported criticisms of Muslim immigrants by Thilo Sarrazin, a member of the Bundesbank who was forced out of his job for his outspoken views on the issue. Surveys also show many Germans would consider backing a new party that was tough on immigrants.
The far-right party Jobbik entered parliament for the first time in April 2010 elections, winning 47 seats in the 386 seat chamber and its support has risen ahead of municipal elections on October 3. Jobbik has capitalised on popular resentment towards Hungary’s large Roma minority, and said recently that Roma considered a threat to public safety should be placed in highly-controlled “public order protection” camps.
The anti-immigrant, pro-autonomy Northern League, which is part of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s coalition government, has made strong gains in recent elections and increased its influence over policy in Italy. Long a main entry point for Africans seeking entry into Europe, Italy had the biggest net immigrant inflow in the EU last year, but it has clamped down severely in recent years.
Berlusconi’s government agreed a deal last year with Libya to send back boats caught trying to cross into its waters illegally. It has also passed tough laws allowing authorities to fine and imprison illegal immigrants. Rome has been openly supportive of France’s campaign to repatriate the Roma.
NETHERLANDS The anti-immigrant Freedom Party of populist Geert Wilders was the third strongest party in a June election and could gain ample influence over policy if centre-right parties agree to form a minority government with his support. Polls show that if new elections were held, the party would emerge as the strongest in the country. Wilders, the political heir to populist Pim Fortuyn who was killed in 2002, wants to ban face veils and the Koran, as well as shut down Islamic schools in the Netherlands, whose population of 16.6 million includes 1 million Muslims.
Norway’s anti-immigrant Progress Party had its best showing ever in last year’s parliamentary election, winning 23 percent of the vote and consolidating its position as the country’s main opposition party. To widen its appeal, the party has sidelined some of its hardest immigration critics whose comments were interpreted by some as racist, and has focussed increasingly on criticising Norway’s cradle-to-grave welfare state.
SWEDEN The Sweden Democrats, an anti-immigration party which criticises Islam and Muslims as un-Swedish, won its first seats in parliament in a September 19 election. The party has profited from a backlash against Sweden’s liberal asylum policies, which attracted tens of thousands of Iraqi refugees after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.
The right-wing populist SVP won 27 percent of the vote, the highest of any Swiss party, in a 2007 parliamentary election. It has thrown its support behind a forthcoming referendum that would allow faster expulsion of criminals of foreign origin. The Swiss voted last year to ban the construction of new minarets.
Compiled by Noah Barkin with contributions from EU bureaus