Verify info, Swedish PM says after Trump comments

Mr Loefven (left) was "surprised" by US President Trump's remarks linking migrants to a supposed rise in violence in Sweden.
Mr Loefven (above) was "surprised" by US President Trump's remarks linking migrants to a supposed rise in violence in Sweden.

STOCKHOLM • Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Loefven says policymakers would do well to use the correct facts and verify any information they wish to spread.

The Prime Minister said he was "surprised" by United States President Donald Trump's weekend remarks linking the arrival of a wave of migrants with a supposed rise in violence in Sweden.

The Premier defended his country's track record in human development, equality and competitiveness while acknowledging that Sweden, like other countries, faced "many challenges and opportunities", adding a veiled rebuke.

"We must all take responsibility for using facts correctly and verifying any information that we spread," he said at a press conference in Stockholm with the Governor-General of Canada David Johnston on Monday.

Mr Trump's comment - "look at what's happening last night in Sweden" - had Swedes baffled, as no major incident had occurred. The President later tweeted that he had been referring to a broadcast on Fox News about refugees in Sweden.

Documentary film-maker Ami Horowitz claimed in the Fox report on Friday that there was a crisis of violence in Sweden ignited by a wave of Muslim migration.

"The government has gone out of its way to try to cover up some of these problems," said Mr Horowitz.

On Monday, Mr Trump again tweeted: "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!"

Sweden received about 160,000 asylum seekers in 2015. It has since clamped down on immigration and now anticipates about 25,000 to 45,000 people will arrive this year.

Data released last month by Sweden's crime prevention council found no significant increase in crimes from 2015 to 2016, even with the influx of migrants.

The council did note an increase in assaults and rapes last year, but a drop in thefts and drug offences. Still, a Pew Research Centre survey last year found that 46 per cent of Swedes said refugees were more to blame for crime than other groups.

Mr Manne Gerell, a doctoral student in criminology at Malmo University in Sweden, said that immigrants were disproportionately represented among crime suspects, particularly in more serious and violent offences. But he noted that many of the victims were other immigrants.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 22, 2017, with the headline 'Verify info, Swedish PM says after Trump comments'. Print Edition | Subscribe