The immigrant camp in Malmö that was Sweden’s biggest slum for two years


It was Sweden’s biggest slum for almost two years. Home to nearly 200 Romanians, but also an important location for pimps, scrap merchants and activists.

He drives her for three days and nights. A friend takes over the driving for a while but is dropped off in Dresden. The two drivers sleep in shifts. Personally Maria prefers to sleep the whole time. When they arrive in Malmö, they stay at an Ibis hotel behind the city’s football stadium. There are unofficial photos of a young Zlatan Ibrahimovic hanging in the fast food restaurant across the street. That’s how Maria works out that she’s in Malmö. Not that it makes any difference.

“The driver” is what she calls the man in the car when she talks to me. As if he were her private European chauffeur. And in a way he is, and each day he decides which side of the Öresund Bridge they’ll be working on. It’s only when the driver suddenly checks them both out of the hotel, that she is taken to their real home on the plot of wasteland.

“It’s a car park,” says Maria about her home, the first time we meet.

It turns out that she’s talking about the camp. It’s just that I haven’t heard anyone call it a car park for a very long time. In actual fact, it’s a reasonable description. About a third of Maria’s closest neighbours live in makeshift huts built from pallets and tarpaulins, while the majority, including herself, live in the row of cars and campervans nearest the fence along the sides. They sometimes get out of their vehicles to warm themselves up, by the large bonfire that’s always burning near the entrance.

“Maria”, age unknown, from a medium-sized town in Romania, prostitute: “I come from ... No, actually, put Bucharest and 27 years old. The life I have at home has nothing to do with what I’m doing here. I’m thinking about my husband before I speak. He doesn’t need to hear about this. The market in Malmö isn’t good. It’s hard to earn money when police without uniforms constantly come up to you and the cars that stop, asking thousands of questions. They scare off some of those who want to buy our services. Big, big problem for the clients. Older women are also angry. They stood here before and think we’re selling ourselves too cheap now. That we’re bringing down the prices. I charge 500 kronor. In the course of a day, I might make 2,000. I send it home to my husband and son. I wish that everyone would leave us alone so that we could earn the money we need more quickly. We waste a lot of time.” Photo: Tomas Leprince

The car is the same one that she came to Sweden in. And the driver is still with her. But he’s not a morning person. When they start at 9 am and he parks his car by the pizzeria on the corner, to keep an eye on what’s going on, he sometimes falls asleep at the wheel. They always get up early. When the pizzeria on the corner opens, they’re already at the end of their shift.

“The girls who start in the late afternoon don’t seem to have worked out how to avoid the plain clothes police officers,” explains Maria.

The police on the other side of the street, next to the cemetery, are the ones who take up most of her time. They don’t arrest the customers but they start discussions, remind them about the Swedish Sex Purchase Act and take up unnecessary time. Some of the customers give up and go home; others say that they know Maria, that they’re fully entitled to spend time with her, and then the car door closes.

Rubbish has been thrown into a deep hollow that previously formed part of skateboarder territory.

When Rima Daoud goes in, the diggers have already torn down the huts. A colleague removes a plastic supermarket bag, which is to be handed over to the police. It’s filled with ammunition. 0.22 calibre, the police later note, never finding out who was in possession of illegal weapons. Things like that aren’t particularly easy in an area of anonymous residents.

They’re here to start work on clearing the site. So much rubbish has been thrown into a deep pit, which used to be the skateboarders’ turf, that the top of the rubbish pile is now level with the surrounding area. The environmental inspectors want to sort the waste for recycling, but can’t go through it by hand. It will have to be driven to the tip and separated there.

The camp is far from empty. Everywhere you look there are huge volumes of food – baguettes, pasta, unopened packets of sausages. The inspectors find tools, medicines and bedding.

Rima Daoud, back in Brännaren three weeks after the camp was cleared. Her assessment is that the camp constituted a serious and immediate health risk. Photo: Lisa Mattisson
Vito shares his lunch. As a Moldavian Muslim, he never felt at home in the camp, despite his begging spot outside the Willys supermarket being just minutes away. Photo: Lisa Mattisson

This is the first time Rima Daoud has been inside the huts. She sees proper beds, big ones. One duvet cover is unusually heavy. She pulls at it to shake the duvet. Objects as big as school rulers are pulling in different directions inside it – five living rats are trying to get out.

The environmental inspectors who have entered the plot of wasteland to sanitize it on this November morning come from different backgrounds. A couple of them specialise in oil spills. But Rima Daoud was an environmental inspector with the city’s various slum landlords. She has evacuated Malmö families from mould, damp and vermin. Now she’s dodging her way through rats and ammunition, in housing that has been here for almost two years and that has become a little world of its own.

Those women have the type of eyelids that anti-wrinkle cream doesn't stick to.

The women who use the toilet are getting younger and younger. Selda can only guess at their ages. Twenty? They say that they’re 25 and 27, which seems inconceivable when she meets their gaze. They have the kind of eyelids that anti-wrinkle cream doesn’t stick to.

Selda Daghan calls what the girls do in the toilet “mopping up”. This means that they wipe off the remains of sex from their genitals before their next customer.

On an average day, the girls stand outside for between 7 to 10 hours. Some are in pairs.

Selda’s family restaurant is the only place that serves food close to their street. The girls have two favourite dishes: tea for 10 kronor and the Power King energy drink for 10 kronor. But mostly they need the running water in the bathroom. The girls are a daily topic of conversation for Selda and her family. Their involvement is entirely involuntarily – the pizzeria they own just happens to be on the corner between the camp and what has turned into a prostitution zone. When the restaurant is empty, they sometimes watch the street from the window.

The families give the girls names. Like the angry one, the fat one, the one who knows Turkish because she learnt it in Bulgaria. Maria is known as the little one. Selda remembers her the most.

“She couldn’t walk in high heels. That’s how I knew she had no experience. The girls who’d worked in a lot of countries were used to them. But the little one was all wobbly.”

Individual stoves and makeshift fireplaces were found in the huts. Photo: Malmö kommun

Sex had been sold on Industrigatan before, to a lesser extent, on the other side of the wasteland, but the plot itself was a hangout for skateboarders and tireless party people who wanted to keep the party going after the clubs had shut. But two things changed in the spring of 2014. A few campervans parked in the fenced-off wasteland and started to spread their belongings about the place. And Agneslundsvägen, just beyond the plot, gained a whole new population.

Three women, wearing long demure skirts, start visiting the pizzeria together over the summer, where they would change into more revealing clothes in the bathroom, before taking up their positions on Agneslundsvägen. Suddenly there are nine girls standing in a row along the stretch outside the window, in the shadow of a cemetery.

The changes take place gradually. The skateboarders no longer come in for a kebab. Their ramp on the derelict lot becomes the supporting wall for a bunch of small huts, and they start looking for somewhere else to practise their tricks. Suddenly, cars are driving slower on Agneslundsvägen.

Selda is pleased when she sees representatives from the municipality’s prostitution group there one evening, but doesn’t think they seem to do more than hand out condoms. Her husband Mustafa thinks that their actions almost encourage what’s going on. And Selda suddenly notices that the families who used to eat at the restaurant don’t anymore.

In an attempt to not scare off any more customers, Selda tries to find ways to throw the girls out. But they’re smart. They know that if they buy a soft drink, she can’t do anything. They work out which members of staff are the kindest, who let them leave their handbags and extra clothes behind the counter and never saying anything when they come in to get warm. And it’s hard to not let the girls have their break.

It’s especially hard to say no to Maria. She wants chicken wings and a salami pizza and says that she can pay when she’s “sorted out some money”. They always let the little one pay later.

“She knows so little about Sweden,” says Selda. “When the new banknotes came into circulation, she came in and thought she’d been conned. One of her older colleagues came in one morning with two black eyes. I’m a woman. My daughter is their age. It makes me sad to see the men stop and pay for them.”

Young people with a special interest in dance music on vinyl are invited to organise parties here.

East of the camp is a long building that has on occasion hosted a lively illegal nightclub. If there’s a police raid in the area, that is where the police van makes its first stop. The infamous Black Cobra local youth gang had its base in a cellar here for a number of years. They would drink coffee and have parties there in peace, but they weren’t exactly discreet tenants and towards the end of 2014, the landlords completely changed their stance. They came up with a better plan. Young people who were particularly interested in vinyl techno music were invited to organise clubs here.

The plan is watertight. The same people who rented out the place to Black Cobra are on the door, collecting the entry fee. 100 kronor per person. Local organisations claim that the change of image was intentional. If the basement is rented out to what the neighbours call “drifters” – young people interested in culture from the district around Möllan (Möllevångstorget square) – the police will leave the club-goers alone.

But the building offers even greater potential. During a crackdown, the police find a family of four living in the upper section of the former office and industrial premises. It’s the second time in the space of a year that they have to call social services to collect sleeping children from Industrigatan.

Malmö is exposed to the coastal winds. It rains heavily every month. During floods, thoughts easily turn to the people living in temporary premises such as basements, association premises and illegal nightclubs.

The Brännaren district is built on a foundation of wooden pallets, most of which come from the warehouse of neighbouring food wholesalers Abdos. Just as makeshift as the huts are, so too is the governance of the camp. In an association premises 3 km away, on Krusegatan, conflicts are settled in what is known as a Roma court room, but looks like a debate venue dressed up as a café.

In the 2015 budget, the Malmö City Executive Board earmarks 5.6 million kronor for the city’s newly arrived Roma group. But the grants mainly go to projects outside the autonomous Brännaren district. The area is steeped in independence.

By the end of year construction on the wasteland is complete, with small huts surrounded by rows of cars.  A group of volunteers pays for two portable toilets and a container for the new district. Beds and furniture are carried onto the site. Political enthusiasm is growing for the district that breaks all the rules.

It's a kind of lawless place that you can drag your enemies to and settle a score without anyone knowing about it.

An unmanned carwash on Industrigatan: a secluded spot where criminals beat people up and do deals. And where people looking for sex are left alone with the prostitutes. Photo: Lisa Mattisson

Maria learns which areas of Industrigatan people will leave you alone in. Opposite the illegal nightclub is an unmanned carwash. Secluded spots that are used now and again, round the clock. Maria’s driver uses this kind of place to park in – so he doesn’t let Maria out of his sight – whereas Maria uses it for meetings with customers. The most important thing in each encounter is that payment goes unnoticed. Sometimes they park inside the camp. You can have sex in the actual car, just as long as no-one sees the 500 kronor banknote changing hands.

Secluded spots are becoming increasingly popular around Industrigatan. For anyone who’s had Malmö friends that fraternise with criminals, the carwash on Industrigatan is a well-known quiet spot for beating someone up. Reports to the police from this address include people calling to say that “they’re beating a guy to death at the carwash”. It’s a sort of lawless punishment spot that you can drag your enemies to and settle a score without anyone seeing.

Traffic is increasing on Industrigatan. Not only are there cars driving in and out of the gates to the camp, the street itself is a known racing spot. A directory search shows 20 or so traffic violations, from drunk driving to car break-ins, and in most cases you cannot determine whether the crimes have been committed by camp residents or passers by. Herein lies the crime in the camp’s paradox. In the Brännaren district there are no fixed addresses that you can turn to the police for, it is just a plot of land next to some main roads. If you want to search through crime statistics, you have to search the surrounding addresses, and then try to determine which assaults occurred before and after the fencing went up. The next problem is that the names of the people involved are not exactly neatly listed in the national census records. An aid organisation project manager reports an assault on a woman in the camp, but the preliminary investigation is cancelled when there isn’t a full name for the victim.

Malmö Deputy District Police Chief, Mats Karlsson, has been following the camp’s development. He points out the importance of not making false accusations against the people in the camp. At the same time, crimes around the camp are not necessarily about the actual residents, and “residents” is in fact a loose term, in a district that so many people are visiting temporarily.

“We saw that there were stolen goods here on certain occasions. On one occasion, when we assisted the local authorities, the police that were on site saw a van. Inside it were stolen tools. But we didn’t find a suspect. On another occasion we found a stolen caravan. But considering the volume of people, there were few occasions.”

“However, we do believe that if the settlement had continued, it would have attracted other individuals looking to hide. We began to see trends. Individuals with criminal intent usually opt to hide within a group. We’ve seen this on other occasions.” 

During the clean-up operation after the eviction, three Police Officers who had been called out wrote reports about weapon-related crimes. Each of them had found 0.22 calibre ammunition in the camp – on the 3rd, 4th and 5th of November. The Environmental Department found a stash just lying there openly in a plastic bag, while another was packed away in a box. It has not been confirmed who it was that stashed them in the camp. The area was under 24-hour guard by the residents of the huts and activists, right up until is was demolished.

Two months later several hundred Malmö residents will surround the Brännaren district in silence, cars blocking the adjacent streets.

On 1 September 2015 Rima Daoud starts her new job as Unit Manager for the Environmental Department. The next day she enters the camp. It is top priority issue. A protracted bureaucratic process has allowed the camp to grow into a permanent, autonomous residential district that is having a major impact on its surrounding area.

Two months later several hundred Malmö residents will surround the Brännaren district in silence, cars blocking the adjacent streets, waiting with anticipation for the eviction deadline to be reached.

Rima Daoud examines the outsides of the huts. In the middle, most of them are built from pallets and tarpaulins. Furthest in, sheltered from the noise, an increasing number of huts have been built from actual planks of wood. Several car batteries and cables run between the makeshift houses. The Environmental Department estimates that there were four people living in each vehicle and hut, which would mean somewhere in the region of 150-200 inhabitants in the district.

Rima Daoud’s assessment is that the camp constitutes a serious and immediate health risk. The ground is already severely contaminated with old industrial waste. A school adjacent to the plot had to be moved at the end of 2013, after mould and soil contamination were thought to be affecting the pupils’ health. Excrement and vermin found in the huts can spread disease. One of the major problems are the fireplaces and bonfires being lit on the polluted ground. Apart from the risk of fires breaking out, being constantly close to open fires is a strain on the lungs. I ask Rima if the volunteers who helped the camp to collect firewood have contributed to worsening the health of the residents.

An open fire helped camp residents to keep warm. And in the run up to the eviction, a lot of activists took advantage of its warmth. Photo: Tomas Leprince

“Of course,” she says.

One of the first things she notices about the camp is that the huts are numbered. Someone has taken the time to draw numbers on the houses, using to a systematic layout. A postal worker could have found the right household.

"Back then we had somewhere to be – now, we have nothing and we're cold when we're asleep."

There's a car in the centre of the prostitution zone, in the middle of Agneslundsvägen. None of the girls seem to be working the streets this morning. A soggy pile consisting of a T-shirt, skirt and denim handbag is lying on the pavement, reminding us of their existence.

Two childhood friends who have just woken up look out of their windows, dressed in sweatpants and coats. They are Florin Jonut and Costică Flavius. The car, which has Irish plates, belongs to a friend, they say. It used to parked inside the camp. They’ve definitely not seen any prostitution, they say, neither here nor in the camp. Instead the reason they’re here is to be close to what Florin keeps calling “the site”.

“Of course, we miss the site. Back then we had somewhere we could be – now, we have nothing and it’s cold where we’re sleep,” he says.

I wonder what the actual difference is. They slept in exactly the same car when they were inside the camp. It’s less than 200 metres from where their car was parked.

“We were able to make a fire. There was half a hut where you could put a stove and go in and get warm,” replies Florin.

The camp also had areas where they could work. There are several people in Malmö who collect scrap in lorries, selling it on to scrap merchants. A street in the Lindängen district of the city is the site of an ongoing conflict about scrap handling taking up too much space outside someone’s house. There were no neighbours to complain in the camp.

Florin Jonut, 35, and Costică Flavius, 40, Târgu Jiu, beggars: “We grew up in the same district and have followed each other around Europe. The first time we were in Malmö was 2014. But when we got back in October, we only managed to live there for three weeks before the camp was demolished. It’s really very difficult not to have anywhere any more. We want to find a new camp and we know that there is one. In Kalmar – they have everything there. Water, electricity, toilets. Not even people in Romania live that well.” Photo: Lisa Mattisson

Florin and Costică make a rough guess that between 200 and 300 people lived on “the site”. The majority came from Târgu Jiu, Craiova or Râmnicu Vâlcea – all three towns are located in southwest Romania. The two childhood friends prefer people from Târgu Jiu, which is where they come from themselves. They keep things in good order, in their opinion – just beg and then sleep, not party or fight. The guys are still in touch with most of them but they particularly miss Octavian, an older, bearded man who has returned home briefly to sort out some pension papers. Octavian was respected for his age and his beautiful language, and he served as a mediator.

“Whatever the conflict, you could go to Octavian and he’d remind you why we’re here. Everyone should just focus on making money to take home.”

Florian Jonut thinks that begging in Malmö has become more difficult.

There was also a shack with several chairs and a table where large mediation sessions could be held.

Florian Jonut thinks that begging in Malmö has become more difficult. Sometimes, he doesn’t even try and just stays in his car for a whole day. When in late summer he returned to Malmö after a quick trip back to Romania, something had changed. Around Central Station the focus was on the refugee crisis. And an eviction order had been nailed up on “the site”. Its message was that everyone must have vacated the Brännaren district by 4 pm on 1 November.

Traffic jams on Nobelvägen aren’t particularly common. Traffic jams on Nobelvägen on a Sunday afternoon in the direction of an abandoned industrial site are unique.

Car after car, Malmö resident after Malmö resident wants to see the city’s autonomous district either demolished or rescued. Up by the carwash an estate car has stopped in its tracks. The man in the family calls over to me and a press photographer. He wants to know whether we’ve heard any news. He, his two young children and their grandmother have been here since one o’clock, waiting to see some action. Are the police coming or what?

In front of the entrance to the camp, something even stranger is going on. Almost a thousand people have started walking towards the camp. They’re standing on the grass mounds outside the energy supplier E.ON’s neighbouring office complex. They’ve climbed up onto a roof close by to get a better view. But the majority of them are standing in front of the entrance.

The northern pavement means they're for the demolition, the southern one means against.

Groups of friends drag each other, choosing sides. The northern pavement means they’re for the demolition, the southern one means against. I ask every single person how they know the system, but they’re unable to answer. It’s somehow understood. Then they stand in silence, looking at each other. Without banners, without slogans.

Media teams maintain their position around the entrance, where activists and the Roma still living there are being interviewed. All while Malmö is being divided up on either side of a now symbolic street. I’ve never seen a more silent yet fired up crowd. Never ever.

A policeman later tells us that the police had foreseen the commotion and, from the very start, had planned not to carry out the eviction on Sunday while the crowd was there. That doesn’t matter. The Sunday demonstration on Industrigatan was suddenly about something bigger. It was demonstrating that the onlookers were choosing sides in the conflict; that they were completely divided, standing on either side of the street.

The Justice for Sweden’s Roma network remained at Brännaren until the very end. Photo: Tomas Leprince

They knew what was going to happen. A few days before the camp was demolished, the girls disappear from the street. I come to see Maria, but there’s no one left. Over the days that follow, Selda Daghan doesn’t see a single prostitute in the area.

“They spread out as the camp was being built and quit just before it was demolished.”

The first time I go to the pizzeria, it’s to ask for Maria, whose name has been changed because she doesn’t want her husband and children to recognise her in this article, and Selda immediately understands who I mean. The little one with the salami pizzas and chicken wings who can’t walk in high heels.

The people who had stood there staring on either side of Industrigatan that Sunday, the people from the crowd who were most interested, are still milling around beside the empty camp. Local right-wing Sweden Democrat politician Mariola Hansson stops in her car, her Samsung phone poked out of the window to film me interviewing the Environmental Department next to the wasteland.

Thirteen of the people living in the camp have accepted the offer from the city authorities of a paid flight home to Romania. Some of them are put into non-profit housing for immigrants who haven’t sought asylum. And a large group moves on to the cycle tunnel just outside the City Clerk’s Office, where a protest is developing. The group sleeps in the tunnel, with mattresses and blankets donated by volunteers, and is soon joined by activists.

"You can't make money in Malmö anymore."

I don't see many Malmö beggars heading for other nearby municipalities. Vito, who has diabetes and walks hunched over a stick, is the only one I immediately recognise. Vito came from Rîșcani in Moldavia to Arlöv in Sweden. He started off asking for money around the Willys supermarket near Industrigatan. But something happened at the end of August.

“You can’t make money in Malmö anymore. They don’t want to give. Big difference compared to Lund,” he says.

He doesn’t exactly know what’s changed, but has moved his begging activities to Hyllie, near the Öresund Bridge, and to Lund, commuting with a monthly travel card. He knows that things started getting more difficult at the end of the summer – particularly in the commuter transport system. Malmö Central Station filled up with people, he explains, and seems to be referring to the refugee crisis. On 11 September, the Swedish government also urged the Swedish public to stop giving money to beggars.

Vito’s first spot outside Willys was close to the camp. He’s visited it but would never sleep there, he says.

“I’m a Muslim from Moldavia – no one like me sleeps there but I’m welcome to visit. The people living there are Romanians, and there’s a lot of parties and activity there that makes sleeping difficult,” he says.

Those who've seen the media coverage of the Malmö camp have seen Malmö resident Catalan Mihai.

Catalan Mihai is freezing cold. The cycle tunnel outside the City Clerk’s Office gets cold at night in November.

He’s been here since the camp was demolished – sometimes at night, sometimes in the day, sometimes both.

Those who’ve seen the media coverage of the Malmö camp have seen Malmö resident Catalan Mihai. He got involved with the camp two years ago. When the conflict intensified, he started to leave his flat to sleep with the group outdoors. Previously he has worked putting up posters for nightclubs and music events and is a well-known name in Malmö’s Möllan (Möllevången) district.

When the media have visited the camp, Catalan has been the first person the reporters have approached. He has more or less become the camp’s official interpreter. He has been used by the city authorities in meetings where the residents want to negotiate, he translated Roma speeches at the Left Party’s happening on 1 May (International Workers’ Day), he has interpreted for public service broadcaster Sveriges Radio, al-Jazeera, Danish newspaper Politiken, Danish public service, Romanian television and several daily newspapers.

Catalan Mihai, 36, Malmö, interpreter and volunteer: “I’ve done interpreting for all the media who’ve been here: Danish TV, Romania TV, al-Jazeera, Sveriges Radio. For the municipality. On 1 May. No, I don’t think I should be paid for it. I don’t believe in money. I started to get involved in the camp after having talked to people on the street and seeing that help was needed. I also spent a few nights in the camp in a caravan.” Photo: Lisa Mattisson

He is also the spokesperson for the Nätverket för romers rättigheter (Roma Rights Network) and has spent nights both in the camp and outside the City Clerk’s Office. When I ask which media he has worked for, he replies:

“All of them.”

And you really do get that feeling when you see him. People with microphones and cameras are constantly tapping him on the shoulder. He makes no demands whatsoever for payment.

“I don’t believe in money.”

In the foyer of the City Clerk’s Office, journalists squash in together while irritated local politicians zigzag between former camp residents, who are sitting on the floor holding protest signs. They’ve gone into the City Clerk’s Office to demand a meeting with Municipal Commissioner Carina Nilsson in the hope of being allotted a new plot of land or alternative accommodation.

Catalan Mihai whirls around between everyone wanting their interviews to be interpreted, feeling the pressure. People are queuing up to see him. The Roma protesters also refer me to Catalan if I try to talk via my own interpreter, who’s on the other end of the phone, or in some common language. Catalan is quite simply at the heart of the protest.

Suddenly Luciano Astudillo, one of the most senior politicians in Malmö, is standing in the throng, negotiating with the crowd to leave the City Clerk’s Office. He immediately turns to Catalan Mihai and divides the activists and former camp residents up.

“Is it you or them who’s protesting? If I ask you to ask them to leave the premises, will they do it?”

Catalan Mihai gets everyone out of the City Clerk’s Office and then says that this is the first time his role has been questioned.

“They’re saying that it’s actually someone else who’s protesting! They don’t even want to let them have their own protest.”

He thinks the criticism is unfounded and is upset about the allegations.

“Luciano said ‘you should have a neutral interpreter who isn’t with the activists’. That’s the first time someone’s said that.”

Beggars from other municipalities try to park their cars and motor homes just outside the fence.

The City of Malmö considers the clean-up operation after the camp demolition to be over. At the same time several municipalities in the county of Skåne have contrastingly agreed to allow Roma to set up home on campsites.

In the days following the Malmö demolition, 54 Roma, all from Buzău or Targu Mures, many part of the same family, move into an enclosed car park in Lund. Only those selected may enter the site. Beggars from other municipalities try to park their cars and campervans just outside the fence, but they have to sleep there instead.

Whoever you talk to, whatever you ask about begging in Lund, there’s only one answer, which is: “talk to Joakim”.

They’re referring to a 19-year-old Swede who’s basically available 24/7 for the 54 beggars he’s responsible for. The 54 have been allowed to borrow 11 caravans from the municipality and been allotted a place to park them. Joakim Månsson Bengtsson is on the city council for the Green Party, is a member of the social welfare board and runs a municipally financed project for Lund’s Roma beggars, which also accepts donations.

The move to the car park has been highlighted by Månsson Bengtsson as a comparatively more humane action than that in Malmö.

Rules in Romanian have been nailed up about not talking loudly at night and never drinking alcohol.

The caravan park isn't big.But at least it’s secure. Rules in Romanian have been nailed up about not talking loudly at night and never drinking alcohol. At 8 o’clock each morning Joakim is there, locking the gates. That’s when most of residents go out to beg. At 5 pm the gates are unlocked again. Månsson Bengtsson describes it as a safety measure against racist attacks. According to the local authority it is because their offer is limited to a safe place to sleep, and the residents are not supposed to be there during the day.

The result is that a gate is unlocked at 8 am on the dot, with the expectation that all the residents leave. Like an employer, calling them out to beg. But some stay at home during the day anyway; Joakim ensures us that they have a way to get out, but for safety reasons it’s kept secret.

45 year-old Sandica Seacat is standing with her husband Vasile Gheorghe behind the fence when we visit the site. She shows us a coordination number she’s received from the Swedish tax authorities due to being registered at an address in town where she has made a deal with the actual tenant. Her hope is that the coordination number will become a fully fledged Swedish social security number, and she’s decorated her borrowed caravan neatly, as if she’ll be living in it long-term. But the municipality have only promised the places until January.

Gheorghe Niucu, 31, Braila (second right): “I’ve had various different jobs in farming, like picking maize and that kind of thing, and I really wanted to find a job in Malmö. Before the demolition I was in contact with a man who was going to get me a job as a bus boy. Without the camp, it wasn’t worth it. There was no shower and it wasn’t the best environment in the world, but I was planning on living there until I found work. Now I’m back with my daughter, who’s 14 months old. My family thinks about money all the time. That’s all we talk about.” Photo: Daniel Kindstrand

At the pizzeria and petrol station closest to the demolished camp, people are surprised that the demolition was so fast after such a long period of passivity. The idea of political will gaining strength over time is sharply rejected by the Environmental Department, who refer to the bureaucratic process – their eviction order has been appealed repeatedly and been impossible to implement.

New girls, who didn’t sell sex there before, have turned up on Agneslundsvägen. Selda Daghan thinks they are new to Sweden.

“They come in and ask for Western Union to get rid of their cash and reduce the risk of being robbed. Western Union is easy to find in Malmö so they can’t have been around the city before,” she says.

But there are considerably fewer of them than before. In mid-November there is only one left. She’s chosen a spot up by the car wash, but has been coming to the pizzeria every day since the price of Power King energy drinks went down. She wants to keep herself warm and awake.

"It's weird. I really didn't think anyone cared about what's going on here."

On 19 November a few Roma try to seek shelter for the night in an industrial premises on the same street. Police escort them off the premises. The following weekend, the first snowstorm descends on Malmö. Malmö winters, Malmö storms and Malmö rain are known for putting an end to temporary housing that has built over the year. New arrivals and casual labourers who’ve rented a mattress in a premises or a basement are driven out when they realise the meaning of real damp and cold.

I go back to Selda and Mustafa’s pizzeria. They haven’t seen any women for several days and are surprised that no new camp has started being built yet. Mustafa says that the obstruction of a new attempted settlement a few days earlier is the first time he’s seen the authorities take such rapid action in the area.

“It’s the first time I’ve seen the police do more than check ID cards. It’s weird. I really didn’t think anyone cared about what’s going on here.”