Just a few days after President Trump’s remarks on Saturday about what he said happened "last night in Sweden," unrest erupted in Rinkeby, a Stockholm suburb that is home to a large immigrant population. Rioters there set cars on fire and threw rocks at police Monday night after one person was arrested, local police said. Police fired guns but did not hit anyone.
When Trump made his comments on Sweden at a rally in Florida, he also referred to Paris, Nice and Brussels — three cities that have seen terrorist attacks in recent years. So it caused some bewilderment when he added, “You look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden — who would believe this?”
Sweden hasn’t had any terrorist attacks since it took in a recent wave of asylum seekers. The most recent terrorist attack happened in 2010, when two bombs exploded in Stockholm, killing only the bomber, Taimour Abdulwahab al-Abdaly, an Iraqi-born Swede.
After Swedes reacted with humor and confusion to Trump’s remarks, he tried the next day to clarify what he meant. In a tweet on Sunday he said he was referring to a Fox News report about “immigrants & Sweden.”
My statement as to what's happening in Sweden was in reference to a story that was broadcast on @FoxNews concerning immigrants & Sweden.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 19, 2017
In the Fox News report, host Tucker Carlson interviewed Ami Horowitz, who made a film about an alleged increase in crime associated with asylum seekers in Sweden. He has described himself as “right of center.”
“So they have these — what they really become are no-go zones. These are areas that cops won’t even enter because they’re too dangerous for them,” Horowitz told Carlson.
Give the public a break - The FAKE NEWS media is trying to say that large scale immigration in Sweden is working out just beautifully. NOT!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 20, 2017
Are those claims justified?
“It’s very judgmental,” Nicklas Lund, a press officer at the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention, said of the claims. The council is an agency in Sweden’s Ministry of Justice that conducts research on the judicial system.
Sweden has 15 suburbs with high crime rates, he said, but the recent influx of refugees doesn’t explain the problem. Rinkeby is one of these 15 areas.
“In 2015 a big number of refugees came to Sweden, and these were problem areas before that,” he told ABC News.
In fact, the number of reported crimes in those 15 areas decreased from 2014 to 2015. In 2015, 19,092 crimes were reported in those 15 areas — a decline from 19,576 in 2014. In 2012 the number of reported crimes in these areas was over 20,200, according to data from the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention. Numbers for 2016 are not yet available.
The council looks at factors such as income and education level in its research on why people commit crimes — not whether they are refugees, Lund said.
Sweden, with a population of about 9.6 million, received nearly 163,000 asylum applications in 2015 — the most ever for the country and more than double the number the year before, according to the Swedish Migration Agency. In 2016, 28,939 people applied for asylum in Sweden, according to the agency.
The decrease in the number of asylum seekers is partly explained by changes in Swedish law, which made it more difficult to achieve family reunification and obtain permanent residency. Also, a refugee agreement between Turkey and the European Union made it more difficult for asylum seekers to cross to Europe.
Sweden announced temporary border controls in 2015, and the country has extended the measures several times. Earlier this month, border controls in some places, in Skane and in Vastra Gotaland counties, were extended by three months, until May 10, the Swedish government said.
Carl Bildt, a former prime minister and foreign minister of the country, noted on Monday in a tweet — which appeared to mock Trump’s tweeting style — that the number of murders committed in Sweden nationwide last year was lower than the number reported in Orange County, Florida, near Melbourne, where Trump spoke Saturday.
Last year there were app 50% more murders only in Orlando/Orange in Florida, where Trump spoke the other day, than in all of Sweden. Bad.— Carl Bildt (@carlbildt) February 20, 2017
Sweden has a low crime rate compared with the U.S., according to the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, but Sweden has seen some increase in violent crime in recent years.
Last year 112,645 violent crimes were reported in the country — an increase from 108,739 in 2015, 108,071 in 2014 and 104,738 in 2013, according to the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention. Those totals include attempted murder, muggings and rape but not other types of sexual assault and murder, the council said.
In 2015 the number of murders went up to 112, from 87 the previous year. The data for 2016 have not yet been compiled, according to the council. But what these numbers don’t show is how many of the crimes were committed by asylum seekers. The statistics are based on police reports, and the reports don’t mention the suspected perpetrators’ ethnicity, citizenship or refugee status, according to the council.
“The police reports don’t have a box you tick about whether it’s a Swedish citizen or an immigrant,” Lund told ABC News, noting that the council does a lot of research on why people commit crimes. The council looks at a number of social factors, including income and education, but not immigration status or ethnicity.
When asked to respond to Trump’s remarks on Sweden during a press conference Monday in Stockholm, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said that he was “surprised” by the comments and that Sweden faces “huge opportunities as well as challenges.”
“I think also we must all take responsibility for using facts correctly and for verifying any information that we spread,” he said.
When asked by another reporter about Trump’s continued criticism of Sweden’s immigration policy, Lofven responded, “It’s up to the president to decide what he wants to say.”
Lofven listed several international economic and innovation indices on which Sweden ranks highly and added, “So we have some very strong facts that show that Sweden is also handling the situation.”
ABC News’ Ben Gittleson and Lora Moftah contributed to this report.