President Donald Trump says Germany’s official crime statistics are wrong: Crime in Germany is up a whopping 10 percent since the country implemented its open-door policy toward refugees, he tweeted Tuesday.
To be clear, as Vox’s Matt Yglesias pointed out Monday, Germany’s overall crime rate has fallen to its lowest level since 1992, according to recently released statistics from the country’s interior minister.
So where did Trump get that 10 percent statistic?
Crime in Germany is up 10% plus (officials do not want to report these crimes) since migrants were accepted. Others countries are even worse. Be smart America!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 19, 2018
The White House didn’t respond to a request for clarification, but our best guess is a German government-sponsored report from January that showed violent crime increased 10 percent between 2015 and 2016 in the German state of Lower Saxony. The study attributed 90 percent of the increase in violent crime to young male refugees. However, unlike Trump, who is using this statistic to argue against accepting refugees altogether, this study suggested language classes, sports, and job opportunities for these migrants. It also said these refugees should be reunited with their families.
This is the second time this week Trump has invoked crime in Germany as a way to sow fear around asylum seekers and refugees in the United States. On Monday, he said crime in Germany is “way up,” and berated Chancellor Angela Merkel for her open-door policy for refugees. As his administration comes under intense scrutiny for implementing a policy that separates families at the border, Trump also said Monday that he would not allow the United States to become a “migrant camp” or “refugee holding facility,” like some of its European allies.
Needless to say, Trump’s comments don’t paint an accurate picture of refugees.
Trump is cherry-picking crime reports to paint a scary narrative around refugees
Put simply: Trump’s claim about Germany’s crime statistics isn’t accurate.
The study Trump is likely referring to is in the context of an increase in violent crime in Germany between 2014 and 2016. However, the most recent crime numbers, which Germany’s interior minister, Horst Seehofer, announced in January, show a nearly 10 percent drop in total crime over 2017. Violent crimes also modestly decreased, by 2.4 percent, between 2016 and 2017. The rate of violent crimes are still higher than they were in 2014, but they are not up by 10 percent “plus” as Trump said.
In other words, violent crime did increase in Germany during the initial influx of migrants, but that rate is now on the decline.
The study that found the 10 percent increase in violent crime in Lower Saxony noted something else: Migrants from war zones like Syria, who have stronger chances of getting asylum in Germany, were much less likely than other migrants to commit violent crimes. The study also said migrant crimes were more likely to be reported.
There’s no question that Europe is at a crossroads with the continued rush of refugees — a crisis that again made headlines this month when Italy’s interior minister turned away two rescue boats carrying 620 refugees, saying the country would no longer be “complicit in the business of illegal immigration.” Meanwhile, Merkel is currently facing fierce political backlash from Germany’s anti-immigration right wing for settling almost a million refugees in the country.
Trump’s policies have long echoed this far-right anti-refugee ideology. His administration has made a concerted effort to sow terror around refugees and asylum seekers, stoking fear that violent criminals may be trying to abuse the immigration system. On Monday, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen reaffirmed this worldview, saying the US media doesn’t focus enough on the crimes perpetrated by asylum seekers.
“The narratives we don’t see are the narratives of the crime, of the opioids, of the smugglers, of who are people killed by gang members, of American children who are recruited and then when they lose the drugs, they’re tased and beaten,” Nielsen told the press Monday.
It’s clear that’s the narrative Trump is focused on.