Mark Collins, 63, moved to Norrland two years ago from Skåne. Photo: Private
Mark Collins, 63, who represents the normally anti-immigration party on Kramfors municipal council, said he believed attracting enterprising immigrants was the only way to stop his city's decline.
“My idea is that if you have a mosque and a cultural centre, then you empower the Muslims to be responsible for our town and the area up here,” the told The Local. “Hopefully we will get a lot of them to come up and stay.”
The city, he said, was losing 100 people a year, whereas Västernorrland as a whole was losing as many as 500 citizens a year.
Even the refugees housed in the municipality following the 2015 crisis had moved south as soon as they were able to, he complained.
“They left as well, and I don't blame them. They're very cosmopolitan and that's part of the trouble. They're very social and don't want to sit in a cabin watching snowflakes fall.”
But he said that he believed immigrants remained the group in Sweden the municipality had the best hope of attracting.
“Who else is going to come up here?” he said. “The one group in Sweden that is mobile is the immigrant community, and they're very business minded, and that's what we need, because there are opportunities galore up here, but there's just not enough people.”
Collins moved to Sweden from the United States in 1974, after which he trained as a vet, setting up a clinic in Borrby, Skåne.
He moved his clinic to Kramfors two years ago so that he and his Swedish wife could be near their son, who works as a doctor. Soon afterwards he was invited to stand as a Sweden Democrat in the council elections.
“It's not a good idea electing an 'Irish genius'. It's not a good idea,” he laughed, admitting that his motion had not gone been well received by other party members, especially since it was reported in the local Allehanda newspaper, and the Dagens Nyheter newspaper nationally.
“It's probably not gone down so well. I don't think they get it,” he said. “I read on the internet that I'm going to get thrown out.”
Collins said that he had initially joined the party during the refugee wave of 2015, as he felt the Sweden Democrats were the only party willing openly and honestly to discuss the potential impacts of Sweden receiving such large numbers of immigrants.
“It was the only party that I felt was honest to me during the great immigration rush. The propaganda, the censorship. There was all this behind the scenes stuff going on and there wasn't an open debate about it, as there was in Denmark and Norway.”
But he said he believed the Sweden Democrats now needed to become a “future-looking party”.
“They lost the debate on immigration. They [the immigrants] are here. So we can't just sit around whining about it,” he said. “It's over, and I think they [the Sweden Democrats] are having a hard time moving on.”