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Minister blasts Sweden Democrats' Wall Street Journal op-ed: 'They're lying about Sweden'

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Minister blasts Sweden Democrats' Wall Street Journal op-ed: 'They're lying about Sweden'
Sweden's justice and migration minister Morgan Johansson. Photo: Izabelle Nordfjell/TT
18:30 CET+01:00
Sweden's justice and migration minister has accused anti-immigration party leaders of lying about Sweden after they wrote in the Wall Street Journal that Donald Trump was right in his comments about immigration.

He spoke hours after Sweden Democrat bosses Jimmie Åkesson and Mattias Karlsson wrote in an opinion piece published in the Wall Street Journal on Thursday that "Mr Trump did not exaggerate Sweden's current problems" when he falsely suggested that immigration had sparked a rising crime wave in the country.

"If anything, he understated them. Sweden took in about 275,000 asylum-seekers from 2014-16 – more per capita than any other European country," they wrote, adding that "riots and social unrest have become a part of everyday life" and vowing to "make Sweden safe again".

"For the sake of the American people, with whom we share so many strong historical and cultural ties, we can only hope that the leaders in Washington won’t make the same mistakes that our socialist and liberal politicians did."

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Sweden's justice and migration minister Morgan Johansson told The Local on Thursday that the government would submit its own opinion piece to the newspaper to counter the claims.

"I note that it has gone so far that the Sweden Democrats are intentionally harming Sweden by lying about how things are. We can't let that go unchallenged. They're painting a picture of a country characterized by violence, when it's the exact opposite. Not to mention the risk of being the victim of deadly violence in the US is four times higher than in Sweden," he said.

A total of 112 people were victims of deadly violence in Sweden in 2015, according to the National Council for Crime Prevention (Brå). Deadly violence has decreased since the 1990s.

READ ALSO: Why Sweden is not the rape capital of the world

Åkesson and Karlsson wrote their opinion piece following a report on Fox News on crime and immigration in Sweden, which President Donald Trump said he had based his view of Sweden on.

"I would say that perhaps the US president ought to be a bit more critical of his sources and not get all his news from reports on Fox News," commented Johansson, but refrained from further criticism.

Riddled with factual inaccuracies (some of which were debunked by The Local), filmmaker Ami Horowitz' report on the US network was heavily criticized by many Swedes earlier this week, including two police officers featured in the video who said they had been misled and their quotes taken out of context.

"You should know that despite this kind of thing the image of Sweden is very positive abroad – it is no coincidence that we were elected onto the UN Security Council with a large majority," said Johansson.

"But every now and then these urban myths are spread in far-right media."

READ ALSO: Sweden's 2016 crime stats analyzed

Sweden is not a country without its problems. For example, more than one in five of the foreign-born population is unemployed and it struggles with a critical housing shortage. But Johansson argued that cherry-picking statistics and exaggerating the issues faced by the nation risked harming the debate.

"We have problems like all countries that we have to deal with and it is then important to talk about them in a nuanced way," he said.

In their opinion piece, the Sweden Democrat leaders also commented on anti-Semitism in Malmö, a much-debated topic in the past few years. "Jews in Malmö are threatened, harassed and assaulted in the streets. Many have left the city, becoming internal refugees in their country of birth," they wrote.

However, Freddy Gellberg, the chairman of the Jewish Association, criticized the portrayal.

"Anti-Semitism in Malmö is a serious enough problem without, like the Sweden Democrats, grossly exaggerating and calling Jews moving from Malmö 'internal refugees'. Jews move from Malmö for various reasons and anti-Semitism is one of them," Gellberg told public broadcaster SVT.

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