Does crime increase with migration? German right-wing politicans like Alice Weidel of the right-wing populist party AfD says ‘yes’. The criminal statistics seem to support this claim but the number of suspected criminals is small in all population groups.
This quote is an excerpt of a Facebook post Alice Weidel published on 25 March 2019. She is co-chair of the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), a right-wing populist party in Germany with extreme right-wing tendencies. In this Facebook post, she refers to an article of the public broadcaster Südwestrundfunk (SWR) which in turn refers to the security report of the state of Baden-Württemberg “Sicherheit 2018”. This is the second annual report published since 2017 by the Ministry of the Interior, Digitisation and Migration of Baden-Württemberg in cooperation with the Criminal Police Office of this state.
According to the safety report, a total of 23,332 offences of aggression were recorded in public space in Baden-Württemberg in 2018. Such offences are defined as “crimes committed with the use or threat of physical violence”. Of these acts of aggression, 14,314 were committed by Germans, 9,018 by non-Germans and 2,578 by asylum seekers or refugees. Measured against the total number of cases, the number of refugees suspected of having committed an offence corresponds to about 11% – a rise from 3% or 6% a couple of years earlier. But to check whether they are over-represented, one has to look beyond these numbers.
The last number of refugees registered by the Federal Statistical Office in Baden-Württemberg was 194,120 (source: Federal Statistical Office). Assuming this number of inhabitants, regardless of immigration and emigration in any form and time and calculating the respective proportion of recorded aggression offences for the year 2018, about 1.3% of all refugees living in Baden-Württemberg would have been suspects in aggression offences. In order to compare this quota with the “remaining” population, the total number of inhabitants of Baden-Württemberg minus the refugees or asylum seekers, is calculated to be 10,829,305. The total number of aggression offences committed by German or non-German suspects in the public sphere according to the safety report amounts to 23,332 cases. According to these numbers, about 0.2% of the “remaining” population would have been suspects in aggression offences.
The same approach is used to calculate the proportions of the respective population groups in connection with offences against sexual self-determination. The total number of these offences in 2018 amounted to 7,607 cases. German or non-German suspects were 5,326 of them, the number of suspected refugees or asylum seekers was 708. Measured against the total number of population groups, suspected asylum seekers and refugees account for 0.36%, the rest of suspects 0.05%.
The calculations with the figures in the Security Report show that refugees and asylum seekers under suspicion actually account for a higher proportion of recorded offences of aggression and offences against sexual self-determination than the rest of the population. Weidel’s statement is therefore correct. Political actors, such as the AfD in this case, try to establish a firm link between migration and crime from this, “[…] in order to underpin demands for increasingly harsh measures to counter migration”, as the criminal law expert Christian Walburg writes. However, it is difficult to compare two population groups that are so different and differentiated. Among refugees and asylum seekers, there is “[…] as among the population as a whole, a small proportion of the highly burdened, while the vast majority do not commit crimes.” Similarly, Walburg points out, among immigrants there is a particularly large number of young men which are more likely to commit crimes.
Alice Weidel from the German right-wing party AfD has tried to establish a link between migration and crime by claiming that refugees and asylum seekers are over-represented as suspects in aggression offences and offences against sexual self-determination. The criminal statistics of the state Baden-Württemberg support Weidel’s claim. However, we rate this claim only as mostly true because it does not account for the fact that the vast majority of refugees and asylum seekers do not commit such crimes.
RESEARCH | ARTICLE © Marcel Posa, Hochschule der Medien Stuttgart, DE