Facts about migration and crime in Sweden
In recent times, simplistic and occasionally completely inaccurate information about Sweden and Swedish migration policy has been disseminated. Here, the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs looks at some of the most common claims.
"Not long ago Sweden saw its first Islamic terrorist attack."
Facts: The only known attempt at such an attack took place in 2010. Nobody other than the perpetrator was killed. The motives behind the attack in central Stockholm on 7 April 2017, in which five people were killed and a number of others were injured, are not fully clear, and although the attack bore similarities to attacks carried out by Islamic terrorist groups, no such group has claimed responsibility. Details of the suspect's motives have not been officially confirmed by the Swedish Police. The investigation is still ongoing.
Claim: "There has been a major increase in gun violence in Sweden."
Facts: In general terms, violence has decreased in Sweden in the last 20 years. At the same time, surveys repeatedly show that people in Sweden and in other Western countries have a perception that violence is actually increasing. Perceptions of increased violence have been linked to the number of immigrants in Sweden. Nonetheless, research shows that there is no evidence to indicate that immigration leads to increased crime. Despite the fact that the number of immigrants in Sweden has increased since the 1990s, exposure to violent crimes has declined.
Data from the Swedish Crime Survey shows that in terms of lethal violence, there has generally been a downward trend over the past 25 years. Nonetheless, the level in 2015 – when a total of 112 cases of lethal violence were reported – was higher than for many years.
Studies conducted by the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention show that lethal violence using firearms has increased within the context of criminal conflicts. The number of confirmed or suspected shootings was 20 per cent higher in 2014 than in 2006. The statistics also show that 17 people were killed with firearms in 2011, while the corresponding figure in 2015 was 33.
Figures from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) show that in 2012, 0.7 murders were committed in Sweden per 100 000 inhabitants.
Claim: "There has been a major increase in the number of rapes in Sweden."
Facts: The number of reported rapes in Sweden has risen. But the definition of rape has broadened over time, which makes it difficult to compare the figures. It is also misleading to compare the figures with other countries, as many acts that are considered rape under Swedish law are not considered rape in many other countries.
For example: If a woman in Sweden reports that she has been raped by her husband every night for a year, that is counted as 365 separate offences; in most other countries this would be registered as a single offence, or would not be registered as an offence at all.
Willingness to report such offences also differs dramatically between countries. A culture in which these crimes are talked about openly, and victims are not blamed, will also have more cases reported. Sweden has made a conscious effort to encourage women to report any offence.
Read more about the legal implications of the term 'rape' (in Swedish):
Claim: "Refugees are behind the increase in crime, but the authorities are covering it up."
Facts: According to the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention's Swedish Crime Survey, some 13 per cent of the population were the victim of an offence against them personally in 2015. This is an increase on preceding years, although it is roughly the same level as in 2005.
The Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention has conducted two studies into the representation of people from foreign backgrounds among crime suspects, the most recent in 2005. The studies show that the majority of those suspected of crimes were born in Sweden to two Swedish-born parents. The studies also show that the vast majority of people from foreign backgrounds are not suspected of any crimes.
People from foreign backgrounds are suspected of crimes more often than people from a Swedish background. According to the most recent study, people from foreign backgrounds are 2.5 times more likely to be suspected of crimes than people born in Sweden to Swedish-born parents. In a later study, researchers at Stockholm University showed that the main difference in terms of criminal activity between immigrants and others in the population was due to differences in the socioeconomic conditions in which they grew up in Sweden. This means factors such as parents' incomes, and the social circumstances in the area in which an individual grew up.
Swedish government agencies have nothing to gain from covering up statistics and facts; they seek an open and fact-based dialogue. Sweden is an open society governed by a principle of public access to official documents. This means that members of the public, e.g. private individuals and media representatives, have the right to insight into and access to information about the activities of central and local government.
Claim: "In Sweden there are a number of 'no-go zones' where criminality and gangs have taken over and where the emergency services do not dare to go."
Facts: In a report published in June 2017, the Swedish Police Authority identified 61 areas around the country that have become increasingly marred by crime, social unrest and insecurity. Of these 61 areas, 23 are considered to be particularly vulnerable.
These areas are sometimes carelessly called 'no-go zones'. While the Police Authority has stated that working in these vulnerable areas is often difficult, it is not the case that police do not go to them or that Swedish law does not apply there.
The causes of the problems in these areas are complex and multifaceted. To reverse the trend, more action is required from all of society, at all levels.
For more information, read the Police Authority's reports (in Swedish).
Claim: "The high level of immigration means that the system in Sweden is on the verge of collapse."
Facts: No. The Swedish economy is strong. Despite the high costs of immigration, Sweden recorded a public finance surplus in 2015, and the forecasts indicate that the surplus is set to grow until 2020.
Moreover, Sweden has had one of the highest rates of growth in Europe over the last two years. Youth unemployment has declined considerably and is now at its lowest level for 13 years, and long-term unemployment (12 months or longer) is the lowest in the EU.
In addition, the World Economic Forum has identified Sweden as being among the top countries in many international rankings.
A large number of people have sought protection in Sweden. In 2015, almost 163 000 people sought asylum here. The measures subsequently taken by the Government, including temporary ID checks and border controls, and the new temporary asylum legislation, have led to fewer people now seeking asylum in Sweden.
Read more: Swedish Migration Agency
Sweden needs immigration to compensate for the decline in numbers of babies being born here.
Read more: History of migration in Sweden
Claim: "Muslims will soon be in the majority in Sweden."
Facts: No. It is estimated that there are a few hundred thousand people in Sweden whose roots are in predominantly Muslim countries. But this figure says nothing about how many are religious or not.
The Muslim faith communities have approximately 140 000 members. This is about 1.5 per cent of Sweden's population. The largest faith communities are the Church of Sweden, the Pentecostal Movement and the Roman Catholic Church. Of Sweden's ten million inhabitants, 6.2 million are members of the Church of Sweden.
Prejudices and negative attitudes towards Muslims exist in many areas of society. A report published by the Equality Ombudsman in 2015 shows that Islamophobia is manifested in threats, violence, verbal abuse, media attacks, harassment in schools, unfavourable opportunities for finding a job, and in other ways.