It is summer time, and for many that is equal to holiday time, with time off from job and school, opportunity to travel, and a duty to make some travels, too, such as visit and receive relatives. Those who are more affluent can travel as tourists. But not everything slows down in summer, most things go on as usual, sometimes just in new shapes, according to seasonal demands for those who still depend on livelihood from nature, which most Pakistanis do, but overlooked by many urban dwellers forget.

I am a Scandinavian, and I follow events there through newspapers, video/TV and contact with family and friends. Today, I shall tell something about Sweden. I would also like to draw attention to the World Refugee Day, 20 June. When I first came to Pakistan, it was to deal with Afghan refugee issues in UN organizations. I have written three books under the common vignette title ‘Learning Away from Home’ about Afghans education experience in Pakistan. The country has a proud history in this field, and the refugees themselves must be recognised for how well they have done.

Sweden is a particularly conscientious recipient and host country for refugees and other immigrants. In the ‘crisis year’ of 2015 when there was high influx of refugees, Sweden welcome more than its fair share; today, Sweden has over two million immigrants in a total population of about ten million. In the long run, I believe it will be of great benefit to modern countries to have multi-cultural, multi-religious and multi-ethnic populations. Those countries which are less open to new impulses and people will lag behind.

Tomorrow, Rashid Ahmed Mughal, a former top Pakistani civil servant in the migration sector, and Mahrukh A. Mughal, a teacher at University of Lahore, will be in Islamabad to present their two new books: ‘Migration and Economy Shaping Global Politics. Pakistan in Focus’; and, ‘2020 and Beyond. Un-ravelling Global Foreign Policy Dynamics’.

The Swedish National Day will be celebrated in Islamabad on 21 June this year, a bit late since the actual date of the day, earlier called the Day of the Swedish Flag. It is also Mid-Summer this weekend, with solstice on 22 June with the ‘longest day’ in the Northern Hemisphere. It is a particularly festive weekend in Sweden and the other countries near the North Pole. The Swedes dress up in national costumes and dance and sing folk tunes around the ‘Maistongen’, a mast decorated with fresh leaves and flowers in parks and squares. Some unrest may happen when many people gather and some also take ‘sparkling drinks’.

Last week, Stockholm had a full week of daily political speeches and debates, called the Järva Week (‘Järvaveckan’). The leaders of all the Swedish political parties attended, including Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, chairman of the Social Democratic Labour Party. The founding chairman of ‘Järvaveckan’ and its organization, ‘The Global Village’, is Ahmed Abdirahman, an immigrant from Somalia who came to Sweden with his mother and younger brother well over twenty years ago. He was educated in Sweden and USA in business administration and international relations, and has won awards for his entrepreneurial skills.

The location of the impressive event, with over 40,000 visitors, is in a working class area of Stockholm, Spånga, neighbouring Tensta, Husby and Rinkeby, which are ‘challenged suburbs’ with high crime and shortcomings in policies for integration of immigrants. The Järva Sports Grounds are close to the beautiful Stockholm natural parks, and the suburbs have good public transport to central Stockholm. I listened to most of the party leaders’ speeches on Internet-TV, getting updated on the latest political debates, with immigration issues at the top. I should mention that I studied in Sweden in my youth and I have always been impressed by the country’s innovativeness and unorthodox ways of tackling new issues. Norway has become oil rich, but I believe Sweden still has an edge over Norway in many fields.

In his speech, Socialist Party leader, Jonas Sjöstedt, advised young people from Järva and Rinkey not to leave their home areas for greener pastures elsewhere, the city’s wealthier West End. With degrees and skills, they should come back to help build their home communities, which nobody else feels the same pride and concern for.

The theme for this year’s ‘Järvaveckan’ was, ‘Who Cares?’ (Vem bryr sig?). Greater equality was a key. The PM was more political and ideological than in a long time; in Sweden, as in other countries, people seem again to be interested in real ideologies, policies and practical politics, not just in populist slogans. In several European countries, including Denmark, recent elections have shown a decline in support for the right-wing populist parties. In Denmark, the Social Democrats, with other parties further to the left, are now in majority, and the most likely new PM will be Mette Fredriksen (41). Like in other European countries, the Danes and the Swedes want to regulate the intake of immigrants and refugees, but they also want to focus on better integration policies and practices.

In hindsight, one wonders how the Europeans could take integration issues as casually as they often did in the past. It ought to have been obvious that many immigrants, especially traumatised refugee men and women, would need extra assistance to make it in their new homelands; some youth, especial young men, would indeed have difficulties – as would also many internal migrants from rural to urban areas.

I find it difficult to understand why European politicians hardly ever speak about the positive aspects of receiving refugees and other immigrants. We should know that the host countries don’t just open their borders out of kindness, at least not for too many newcomers; they actually want immigrants to come to help build further the aging European countries.

In one or two generations, or sooner, I believe it will become evident that those countries who received relatively high numbers of immigrants will be doing better than those who had very restrictive policies, like some Eastern European countries. Integration policies should be developed in ways so that the newcomers are integrated. But at the same time, they should be encouraged to keep much of their identities from their home countries – although not quite to the same extent as we Europeans do when we move from the North to the South. We never integrate entirely, do we? I believe it would benefit all if we were more open to local cultures.

All in all, I find that our knowledge about and understanding of how best to handle emigration and immigration are quite limited, even rudimentary. It should be given much greater attention in the social sciences, and it should not be biased by opinions and prejudices in subjects like law, religion, culture and other fields. We live in a time when people migrate and mix. Let the Swedes be Swedish, but not in all ways! Let Pakistanis be the diversity of people God created them to be. And let us all embrace change and cultural borrowing, with knowledge and understanding. How boring it would be if we were all exactly alike.