(Reuters) - Police forcibly removed about 100 people from a makeshift Roma camp in Sweden’s southern city of Malmo early on Tuesday, ending a long standoff over the site that has fueled tensions over immigration.
Dozens of police arrived before dawn to clear out residents who had ignored a weekend deadline to leave the cluster of caravans and huts made of plywood and plastic in an empty lot, deemed unsanitary in a court order last week.
“They surrounded us, began dragging away people, dragged them through the gravel,” a protester called Samuel told TT news agency. Others protested against the clearance outside the city hall.
Roma, mostly from Romania and Bulgaria, are free to travel to Sweden as EU citizens. But a recent increase in arrivals has alarmed city authorities, and triggered criticism from a growing political far right who say the country is a soft-touch for migrants.
“One cannot just settle anywhere in Sweden,” center left Prime Minister Stefan Lofven told TT.
About another 100 Roma had already left the site after the court order.
Sweden is also preparing to take in about 190,000 refugees Syria, Iraq, and other warzones - part of a surge in arrivals straining resources across the continent.
Arsonists have attacked a number of asylum centers in Sweden in recent months.
Reporting by Violette Goarant; Editing by Alistair Scrutton and Andrew Heavens