A fire at a center for asylum seekers in Sweden forced at least 14 people to flee for safety Tuesday in the latest suspicious blaze targeting migrant sites in a country struggling with a crush of refugees.
The incident near Munkedal, about 200 miles southwest of Stockholm, was under investigation as possible arson, but no determination on the cause was immediately made, said police spokesman Stefan Gustafsson.
The reaction from officials was swift, however, as Sweden’s tradition of accommodating asylum seekers and others comes under pressure from anti-immigrant groups that claim the country can no longer sustain its welcoming policies.
As many as 10,000 asylum seekers a week — many from war-scarred Syria and Iraq — have arrived in Sweden at the end of the migrant trail through Europe, which is coping with the largest mass movement of people since World War II.
“A civilized and humane country like Sweden cannot accept that accommodation for asylum-seekers is set on fire,” wrote Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom in a Twitter post.
On Saturday, a former school set to hold 80 refugees was destroyed by fire in southern Sweden. A day later, another unused school building set aside for asylum seekers in southwestern Sweden also was damaged by fire.
In Geneva, the U.N. refugee agency said more than 500,000 refugees and other migrants have arrived by sea in Greece this year, making the sometimes perilous crossing from Turkey.
Melissa Fleming, a spokeswomen for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, said the numbers appear to be rising in attempts to beat the coming winter. Meanwhile, countries across the Balkans — the main pathway toward Central Europe and the Nordic nations — have closed borders and imposed tighter controls in attempts to slow the refugee flow.