President Donald Trump tweeted on Monday, “Crime in Germany is way up. Big mistake made all over Europe in allowing millions of people in who have so strongly and violently changed their culture!”
This was a clear reference to the migrant flow of recent years that has provoked such controversy in Europe.
Trump’s tweet has, unsurprisingly, led to some criticism. The Washington Post, The New York Times and NBC, among others, have all hit back, stating that crime is actually down in Germany.
There is some truth to this. Germany’s 2017 official crime statistics do show a reduction in crime. But that’s only part of the story.
For starters, just look at the threat of Islamist terrorism.
True, this threat predates the refugee flow of 2015. Holger Münch, head of Germany’s domestic criminal investigation agency, outlined in March 2016 that Germany had prevented 11 terror attacks between 2000 and 2013.
Yet even allowing for this, the scale of the terror threat today compared with the threat before German Chancellor Angela Merkel opened Germany’s borders is stark.
Heritage Foundation research shows that Germany faced more terror plots in 2016 alone than in the entire period Münch referred to. More often than not, the perpetrators were Syrian and almost always recently arrived asylum-seekers in the country.
Do you think Europe has a migrant problem?
Think of it another way: Before Merkel opened the borders, there was a conspicuous lack of suicide bombings outside music festivals, of civilians being hacked at on trains with an ax, of Christmas market shoppers being run over by trucks.
Alternatively, consider violent crime. German statistics say that overall, violent crime is down 2.4 percent. Once again, however, this is not the whole story.
A study commissioned by the German government, published this January, measured the effect of the asylum flow from 2015 and 2016 on violent crime in Lower Saxony. This is a part of the country where 9 percent of the population were born abroad and 170,000 people are asylum-seekers.
Between 2007 and 2014, crime in this region was down 21.9 percent. Yet between 2015 and 2016, it jumped by 10.4 percent, of which 92.4 percent came from newly arrived immigrants. The same report found that between 2014 and 2016, solved violent crimes that were committed by asylum-seekers shot up from 4.3 percent to 13.3 percent. (German government statistics report an overall increase of violent crimes in the country of 6.7 percent between 2015 and 2016).
Yes, the picture is more complicated than Trump suggests, and it would be preferable if he were more careful with his public statements. Yet concerns over immigration and terrorism are rampant throughout the European continent.
Just look at recent elections in Italy, Austria and Germany, among others. Unless Europe is now inhabited by tens of millions of paranoid, Islamophobic racists, there is a reason regular voters are backing outsider parties who promise to crack down on immigration.
Trump’s tweet comes closer to capturing the mood and feeling in Europe than his critics. He seems to recognize what so many politicians and media figures won’t: that Europe faces a major crisis in its culture and in its democracy. Obsess over the technicalities of this specific tweet and you are missing the trees for the forest.
Robin Simcox is the Margaret Thatcher Fellow at The Heritage Foundation.
A version of this Op-Ed previously appeared on The Daily Signal website under the headline, “Trump Is More Right Than Wrong About Migrant Crime in Germany.”
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