Despite the hardship, the cold and concrete streets of Stockholm have become home to many seeking a better life.
But when darkness falls and most office workers are making their way home, squares, tunnels and local McDonald’s restaurants are filled with homeless people; beggars and various groups of young men who are now the focal point of a fierce immigration debate. Sweden took in 163,000 asylum seekers and many more migrants during 2015, the highest per capita in Europe.
“This is where we come to relax after a busy day in the city,” says Said, a young Moroccan originally from Tangier who could easily be confused for any Stockholm teenager with his hip-hop clothes and fluent Swedish.
He and his friends approach the counter of a tiny kebab shop on the outskirts of Stockholm and order a couple of plates of food to share. The take-away, which sells a set menu of Arabic food, is crowded with young men, eating at the tables along the walls while they chat carelessly about life.
Ten more guys stand outside smoking cigarettes while talking to people who happen to pass them by, some of whom stay to investigate the take-away menu and, occasionally, step inside to join the crowd.
The issue of stateless migrants has become a diplomatic minefield between Sweden and Morocco. The youths are pawns in a bigger political picture and Sweden’s attitude to the occupied West Sahara plays a part in the impasse over their status.
As a result, diplomatic relationships between Sweden and Morocco have been put under pressure, to the point where the Swedish Foreign Minister Anders Ygerman put in an official request to the Moroccan government to urgently deal with the 80,000 young men living in the streets of Tangier.