By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –
Trump made up another alleged terrorist attack at his rally on Saturday, this one about a figment of his imagination that did not actually take place in Sweden on Friday night.
It is clear that Trump and his white supremacist mafia (Steve Bannon et al.) despise Sweden and Germany for having taken in more than their fair of refugees since the crisis began. Trump and his henchmen see refugees and immigrants as inherently dangerous.
This allegation is not true. In fact, in some places immigrants appear actually to cause the local crime rate to fall! A scientific study of crime and immigration in Canada found that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than the native-born. Haimin Zhang of the University of British Columbia writes,
not only do immigrants themselves commit less crimes, they can reduce the crime rates in the long run through channels such as changing the neighbourhood characteristics or impacting the behaviour of natives.”
The same effect can be seen in the United States. Walter Ewing and his colleagues point out,
“Between 1990 and 2013, the foreign-born share of the U.S. population grew from 7.9 percent to 13.1 percent and the number of unauthorized immigrants more than tripled from 3.5 million to 11.2 million. During the same period, FBI data indicate that the violent crime rate declined 48 percent -—which included falling rates of aggravated assault, robbery, rape, and murder. Likewise, the property crime rate fell 41 percent, including declining rates of motor vehicle theft, larceny/robbery, and burglary. According to an original analysis of data from the 2010 American Community Survey (ACS) conducted by the authors of this report, roughly 1.6 percent of immigrant males age 18-39 are incarcerated, compared to 3.3 percent of the native-born. This disparity in incarceration rates has existed for decades.”
In countries where this effect cannot be seen, i.e. where immigrants do not reduce the crime rate, it is because of the class of immigrants admitted. The US mostly lets in fairly high-skilled immigrants. As for the undocumented, who tend to do menial labor, they are careful not to commit crimes on the whole because they don’t want to be sent back. A tiny number of gang members who are confident that their gang will bring them back if they are deported casts a shadow over millions of people. But only because we let the far right dominate this discourse.
Ironically, it is precisely people like Donald Trump’s grandfather Frederick who are responsible for some minor problems in Sweden. Frederick at least allowed prostitution in his gold rush hotels, and indeed the prospect of a crackdown on that trade along with other law enforcement actions caused him to try to go back to Germany (the German government did not want him).
Moreover, it should be noted that a lot of the refugees taken in by Sweden are from Afghanistan and Iraq. That is, they are fleeing conditions created by the United States in their countries. So actually it should have been the US who took them, not Sweden. The United States is responsible for the displacement of 4 million Iraqis out of 32 million, or over 12% of the population. The US did not displace all of them directly, but its invasion, overthrow of the government, and abolition of the army did lead to these millions losing their homes and being forced to try to find some other place to live. This would be like 40 million Americans being made homeless, a little more than the combined population of Texas and Georgia.
As for Europe, since all human populations have a certain crime rate, if you let in more people, you are letting in more crime. But the real question is relative. Compared to how many people you let in, is the crime rate out of the ordinary? We have seen that in Canada and the US, it is lower than ordinary.
In Germany, Heather Horn of The Atlantic points out, “Although the number of refugees in the country increased by 440 percent between 2014 and 2015, the number of crimes committed by refugees only increased by 79 percent. (The number of crimes against refugees increased as well.)” Sexual offenses are less than 1%, despite the wild allegations of the far right.
As for refugee rape in Sweden, Doug Saunders at the Globe and Mail quoted an actual academic who actually studies these things: ““What we’re hearing is a very, very extreme exaggeration based on a few isolated events, and the claim that it’s related to immigration is more or less not true at all,” says Jerzy Sarnecki, a criminologist at Stockholm University who has devoted his career to the study of criminality, ethnicity and age.”
Swedes are extremely feminist and define all sorts of things as rape (taking off a condom during sex without informing one’s partner e.g.) as rape that would not be considered rape in other countries.
To any extent that refugees in Sweden commit petty crime, they do so at the same rate as other people of their social class. A study cited by Saunders shows that 75% of the difference between native and foreign-born crime rates is accounted for by where people live and how much they make. He adds, “Among the Swedish-born children of immigrants, the crime rate falls in half (and is almost entirely concentrated in lesser property crimes) and is 100-per-cent attributable to class – they are no more likely to commit crimes, including rape, than ethnic Swedes of the same family income.” Saunders also points out that where rapes do occur, the victims also tend to be immigrants, so the lurid picture painted by Neonazis and Islamophobes of white women assaulted by brown men is a fiction.
In fact, a widely reported, premeditated gang rape in Germany attributed to Muslim immigrants never happened. I wrote Friday, ” There was, for instance, the fake news about the alleged Muslim immigrant mass rapes in Cologne a little over a year ago. Breitbart beat the drums for it, but the the story was not true. Or then there was the phony story about Muslims burning a church in Germany, also played up by Breitbart and also not true. Trump is deeply influenced by Bannon’s insane conspiracy theories; if you want to know why he keeps saying false and/or unbalanced things, consider that he gets his news from alt-Neonazi toilet paper like Breitbart.”