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Fewer hate crimes reported in Sweden in 2016

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Fewer hate crimes reported in Sweden in 2016
Police investigating an attack on a Gothenburg synagogue on Saturday. Photo: Björn Larsson Rosvall/TT
14:43 CET+01:00
The number of hate crimes reported in Sweden fell in 2016, according to new figures from the Swedish crime statistics agency, but the rate is still at a higher level than in the years before 2013.

A total of 6,415 crimes with a hate motive were reported to police in 2016, according to the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention (Brottsförebyggande rådet – Brå), which published its Hate Crime 2016 report on Thursday. However, the agency stressed that this figure is only a small proportion of the total number of hate crimes committed, due to the fact that many such crimes go unreported.

In almost three quarters (72 percent) of these crimes, Brå identified xenophobia or racism as the motive, while nine percent were linked to the sexual orientation of the victim.

A significant proportion related to religion, with Islamophobia a factor in seven percent of crimes, while five percent were classed as anti-Christian hate crimes, three percent anti-Semitic, and four percent had other anti-religion grounds.

Most of the hate crimes identified by Brå took place in a public space (22 percent), however the proportion of such crimes which took place in asylum accommodation has increased from one to six percent since 2014. Crimes in the latter category included both xenophobic attacks against existed or planned asylum accommodation, as well as hate crimes between people living or working in the accommodation.

Since the last survey in 2015, the number of crime reports where Brå identified a hate motive has fallen by eight percent. The largest decrease was reported in crimes targeting the Roma community and the Jewish community, with reports of these kinds of crime decreasing by 34 percent each.

"Based on this data, it is difficult to say what the decline in these two areas is due to. When the number of complaints is statistically low, it can be big differences from year to year. Therefore it is better to focus on looking at trends over time rather than to interpret the evolution from one year to another," said Ava Isolde Faramarzi from Brå in a statement.

She added: "It is also important to point out that the reporting statistics say very little about the actual exposure to hate crimes." 

The report comes as anti-Semitism in Sweden is in the spotlight following a series of incidents over the weekend. On Friday, protesters chanted anti-Semitic slogans at an unauthorized demonstration in Malmö, while on Saturday an Israeli flag was burned at a demonstration in Stockholm and a Gothenburg synagogue was attacked with Molotov cocktails.

The incidents led Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Löfven to say Sweden "has an anti-Semitism problem", and a leader from Malmö's Jewish Community told The Local that recent events have created concern among Jewish people in Sweden.

"It does have an effect. People who have perhaps never felt a sense of being the subject of hatred or being threatened start to feel like that's the situation," Freddy Gellberg said.

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