Facts about migration, integration and crime in Sweden

Sometimes, simplistic and occasionally inaccurate information about Sweden and Swedish migration policy is disseminated. Here, the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs looks at some of the most common claims.

Claim: "There has been a major increase in gun violence in Sweden."

Facts: 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.

Read more:
Crime and Statistics in Sweden

Swedish Crime Statistics explained

Global Study on Homicide (UNODC)

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.

Read more: The Swedish Crime Survey

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. 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.

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

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.

Claim: "Integration does not work as well in Sweden as in other countries"

Facts: There are a number of ways to measure integration, one of which is to study the integration of those born abroad in the labour market. In Sweden, 68 per cent of people born abroad aged 20–64 are in employment, compared with an EU average of 66 per cent. The corresponding figure for people born in Sweden is 85 per cent, compared with an EU average of 72 per cent (Eurostat, 2016).

The high level of labour market participation among those born in Sweden – which is partly due to a high level of employment among women born in Sweden – is one reason why the differences between native-born and foreign-born workers are bigger than those in other EU Member States. Sweden has also taken in more refugees than many other EU Member States. Relative to the size of its population, Sweden has seen the largest proportion of asylum seekers in recent years. The causes of migration have an impact on how long it takes for migrants to integrate in the labour market. A refugee has a longer path to employment than a migrant worker, for example. The level of education of those who immigrate also plays a part.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which is an intergovernmental organisation with 35 Member countries, considers that Sweden has well-developed policy for reception and integration. Nonetheless, the OECD highlights the fact that the shortage of housing postpones integration activities, and that more new arrivals need access to early intervention during the asylum process. There are particular challenges associated with providing activities that help newly arrived women and new arrivals with lower levels of education, in particular, to integrate into working and community life.

Sweden comes out on top of the Migrant Integration Policy Index (MIPEX), which compares integration policy in 38 countries. The index consists of 167 indicators in eight policy areas: labour market mobility, education, political participation, family reunion, access to nationality, health, long-term residence and anti-discrimination. Sweden scores particularly highly on labour market aspects and the rights and measures to which migrants have access. The latest MIPEX survey was conducted in 2014.

In the last few years, the Government has implemented reforms and provided additional funds with a view to improving new arrivals' integration in working and community life. This includes fast tracks into the labour market for new arrivals with experience in shortage occupations, an education and training obligation for new arrivals deemed in need of such measures to find a job, and a new regulatory framework clarifying what is required of the individual. The Government has also provided additional funds to municipalities and county councils to improve and reinforce their preparedness and capacity to receive new arrivals. Under a new act on reception for settlement of certain newly arrived immigrants, all municipalities are obliged to resettle new arrivals assigned to them; this aims to ensure that new arrivals can settle more rapidly and begin the integration process. In addition, a new structure has been introduced for measures during the asylum application process, including skills assessment and increased funding for measures via civil society.


  • OECD 2016:1, Skills and Labour Market Integration of Immigrants and their Children in Sweden.
  • Arbetsförmedlingen (the Swedish Public Employment Service) (2017), Integration på svensk arbetsmarknad: Ett internationellt perspektiv ('Integration in the Swedish labour market: an international perspective').
  • Huddleston, Thomas; Bilgili, Özge; Joki, Anne-Linde and Vankova, Zvezda (2015). Migrant Integration Policy Index 2015. Barcelona/ Brussels: CIDOB and MPG.

MIPEX website

Claim: "Sweden has suffered numerous Islamic terror attacks."

Facts: The first case of what could be termed Islamist terrorism in Sweden occurred in 2010, when the only fatality was the perpetrator. On 7 April 2017, five people were killed and a number of others injured in an attack in central Stockholm. On 7 June 2018, the Stockholm District Court handed down a sentence against the person who was indicted for the terrorist attack in Stockholm on 7 April 2017. The defendant was found guilty of terrorist offense by murder in five cases as well as numerous counts of attempted murder. The penalty was set to life imprisonment. The Court also decided to expel the accused from Sweden for life. In addition, the defendant was held liable to pay damages to more than one hundred victims of the attack.

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