According to the latest National Safety Report, published by the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention, four out of 10 women are afraid to walk outside freely. According to an Amnesty International report, "In a 2017 study, 1.4% of the population stated they had been subjected to rape or sexual abuse, corresponding to approximately 112,000 people." (Image source: iStock)
In the picturesque Swedish university city of Uppsala, 80% of girls do not feel safe in the city center. One 14-year old teenager, who is afraid to reveal her identity, told the Swedish media that she always wears trainers so that she can 'run faster' if she is attacked:
"I sat down on a bench and immediately guys came and sat next to me on both sides. Then more guys came and stood in front of me. They began to grab my hair and my legs and said things to me that I did not understand. I became so terrified and told them many times to stop, but they did not listen... Everything is so horrible. This is so wrong. I want to be able to feel safe", she said about taking the bus home.
A recent survey from Region Uppsala shows that only 19% of girls in high school feel safe in the inner city of Uppsala. In 2013, the number was 45%. The men and boys in the gangs that engage in the sexual harassment of Swedish girls in Uppsala are frequently newly-arrived migrants.
In response, officials from Uppsala apparently told the Swedish press, "We usually encourage girls who feel insecure to think about what they need to do to feel safe, such as not walking alone, making sure they get picked up and anything else that can reduce their sense of insecurity." In other words, the authorities are leaving the responsibility for dealing with this critical security issue to the girls themselves.
The scared girls in Uppsala are only a small part of the entire picture. According to the latest National Safety Report, published by the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention (Brottsförebyggande Rådet or Brå), four out of 10 women are afraid to walk outside freely. "Almost a quarter of the population chooses a different route or another mode of transportation as a result of anxiety about crime... Among women aged 20-24, 42 percent state that they often opted for another route or another mode of transportation, because they felt insecure and worried about being subjected to crime. The corresponding proportion among men in the same age group is 16 percent..." according to Brå.
Nevertheless, the government is cutting down on the police's resources. In the government's new spring change budget, the police are facing a reduction of 232 million Swedish kroner (US $24.5 million). "The proposals in the spring change budget will have consequences for the police's activities, but what effects it will have it is too early to respond to at present. We will now analyze how we will handle the new economic conditions," the police said in response to the proposed budget costs, with police chief Anders Thornberg criticizing the cuts.
As it is, the police are already drowning in tasks they cannot perform properly, such as solving rape cases. A recent Amnesty International report, "Time for Change: Justice for rape survivors in the Nordic countries", released in April, harshly criticized Sweden for not dealing properly with rape cases. According to the Amnesty report, among other problems, rape investigations are under-prioritized, there are "excessively long waiting times for the results of DNA analyses", there is not enough support for rape victims and not enough work is done for preventative purposes.
The Amnesty report states:
"In 2017, the Swedish police received 5,236 reports of rape involving people aged 15 or over: 95% of victims were women or girls. The preliminary statistics for 2018 show 5,593 reports of rape of which 96% of victims were women or girls. However, under-reporting of rape and other sexual crimes means that these figures do not give a realistic picture of the scale of the problem. In a 2017 study, 1.4% of the population stated they had been subjected to rape or sexual abuse, corresponding to approximately 112,000 people. The vast majority of rape victims will never report the crime to the police. Of those who do, few will see their case heard in court. In 2017, prosecutions were initiated in 11% of cases involving children aged between 15 and 17 and in 6% of cases involving adults".
Sexual crimes are not the only crimes that Swedish authorities find themselves unable properly to confront. In 2018, Sweden experienced a record high number of lethal shootings; 45 people were killed in them nationwide. Most of the shootings took place in the Stockholm area, and most deaths occurred in Region South, where Malmö is located. "It is at a terribly high level," Stockholm's police commissioner , Gunnar Appelgren, said about the shootings. Previously, 2017 held the record with 43 shot to death. The number of reported shootings overall did, however, decrease slightly: from 324 in 2017, to 306 in 2018. The number of people who were injured was also slightly lower: 135 people in 2018, compared to 139 in 2017.
According to the police, many of the shootings are linked to criminal conflicts and so-called "vulnerable areas" (utsatta områden, commonly known as "no-go zones" or lawless areas). In the first six months of 2018, according to police, almost every other shooting took place in a "vulnerable area". In 2017, a Swedish police report, "Utsatta områden 2017" ("Vulnerable Areas 2017") showed that there are 61 such areas in Sweden. They encompass 200 criminal networks, consisting of an estimated 5,000 criminals. Twenty-three of those areas were especially critical: children as young as 10 had been involved in serious crimes there, including ones involving weapons and drugs. Most of the inhabitants were non-Western, sadly mainly Muslim, immigrants.
To add to these problems, Foreign Minister Margot Wallström appears to be planning to bring back children of Swedish Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists who are living in refugee camps in Syria. "It is complex and that is why it has taken time to develop a policy and a clear message, but we are working on this every day. I cannot bear to see children faring so badly", she recently said. In an April 12 Facebook post, Wallström wrote:
"The government is now working intensively to ensure that children with links to Sweden who are in Syria receive the help they need. There should be no doubt that the government does what it can for these children and if possible they should be brought to Sweden. Each case must be handled individually. The children are in different situations, some perhaps orphans, others with parents arrested for acts they committed for ISIS. Identifying Swedes who can have been born in [Syria or Iraq] is difficult. In the largest camp there are about 76,000 people. We are in contact with International Red Cross in the camps. It is of the utmost importance that the children's situation is handled with legal certainty and with the best interests of the children. International actors, Swedish authorities and Swedish municipalities, who can be recipients of children, must cooperate..."
Unfortunately, the horrific fate of enslaved Yazidi children does not appear to be something that Wallström "cannot bear".
Additionally, 41 out of 290 Swedish municipalities could be forced, or are already being forced, to accommodate returning ISIS terrorists in the near future, according to a recent report by SVT Nyheter. The ISIS terrorists are either still in Syria or already on their way back to Sweden. To "prepare" the municipalities, the Swedish Center Against Violent Extremism invited them to a "knowledge day" about ISIS returnees on April 24. The purpose was to "provide support to the municipalities that have received or will be receiving returning children and adults from areas previously controlled by the Islamic State". The municipalities involved are those where the ISIS terrorists had lived before being recruited to ISIS.
In total, 150 male and female ISIS members are expected to return to Sweden, as well as 80 children who are travelling with their parents.
According to Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, returning ISIS terrorists have a "right", as Swedish citizens, to return to Sweden. Löfven claimed that it would be against the Swedish constitution to strip them of their citizenship, but that those who had committed crimes would be prosecuted. Swedish terrorism expert, Magnus Ranstorp, though, has warned Sweden against taking back not only ISIS terrorists, but also their wives and children, who, he said, also pose a security risk:
"The women are not innocent victims, and there is also a large group of ISIS children... From the age of eight or nine, they have been sent to indoctrination camps where they have learned close combat techniques and how to handle weapons. Some of them have learned how to kill... their identities will forever be linked to their time with ISIS, and the fact that they have an ISIS father or an ISIS mother."
Sweden seems intent on importing even more problems.
John Richardson is a researcher based in the United States.