Swedish opposition party calls for deportation of foreign gang members

Swedish opposition party calls for deportation of foreign gang members
Moderate Party leader Ulf Kristersson. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT
Sweden's largest opposition party wants to be able to deport more foreigners who commit crimes in Sweden – including alleged gang members even if they have not been tried and convicted in court.

The bid is part of a 10-point programme – which also include for example introducing police stop-and-search zones, doubling the punishments for crimes committed as part of gang conflicts, and allowing anonymous witnesses to testify in court – which was published by the right-wing Moderates on Thursday.

The party is currently in opposition and any proposals are unlikely to go ahead without majority support in parliament, but it comes amid increasingly tough campaigning on gang crime from several parties.

One of the party's suggestions is to make it easier to deport foreign criminals.

Today, deportation is an option if someone is sentenced to prison for at least a year, but the court also takes the person's connection to Sweden into consideration. The Moderates argued that a prison sentence should be enough, regardless of length, and that the person's connection to Sweden should carry less significance.

Most alleged gang members are, however, Swedish citizens. According to the Moderates' own estimate, around 700 out of 5,000 suspected gang members are foreign nationals, figures the party based on police estimates of the number of people who are members of gangs as well as statistics on foreign citizens living in Sweden.

Moderate leader Ulf Kristersson told the TT news agency that it was “perfectly accurate” that the majority of gang members are Swedish nationals, but that “we are still talking of several hundreds who are foreign citizens”.

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Another suggestion in the 10-point programme is to make it possible to deport foreign citizens who are involved in criminal gangs, “regardless of whether or not they have been convicted of a crime”. The proposal adds that it should only be done if the person is considered a security threat.

Swedish law does currently allow for, in some circumstances, the deportation of foreign citizens who are seen as a serious national security threat even without a conviction, for example people suspected of terrorist activity.

But the proposal to deport gang members sparked debate in Sweden, with the country's centre-left coalition government saying it was not in line with the rule of law.

“It is incredibly important that what you do affect the right people. You can't have an attitude that it doesn't matter if you deport an innocent person. If this affects innocent people, we no longer have a state governed by the rule of law,” Social Democrat Justice Minister Morgan Johansson told the TT news agency.

But he did not dismiss the idea of making it easier to deport foreign nationals who have committed crimes.

“We are reviewing the legal framework. But we're talking in that case of people who have been convicted of crimes and that's a different group of people,” Johansson told TT.


Justice Minister Morgan Johansson. Photo: Amir Nabizadeh/TT

Sweden's crime rate remains one of the lowest in the world. Despite a rise in murders linked to gangs since the 1990s, there has been a reduction in murders linked to domestic violence, hate crime and 'spontaneous fights', meaning the overall homicide rate is lower today than in the early 1990s. But deadly violence has again increased in recent years, driven by the rise in criminal gangs willing to resort to lethal shootings.

The government has also announced measures to combat the violence. In late September, Interior Minister Mikael Damberg outlined a 34-point programme aimed at combating gang crime, split into four areas: tools to fight crime; breaking the culture of silence; preventing crime; and consequences.

This included giving police increased powers to carry out searches of suspects' homes and to read encrypted communications on suspects' devices, for example, and more available places at Sweden's homes for people with serious substance abuse and psychosocial problems.


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