The US think-tank, the Gatestone Institute - along with many conservative web-sites, has claimed that rapes in Sweden have gone up because of the influx of refugees from the Middle East.

Forty years after the Swedish parliament unanimously decided to change the formerly homogenous Sweden into a multicultural country, violent crime has increased by 300% and rapes by 1,472%. Sweden is now number two on the list of rape countries, surpassed only by Lesotho in Southern Africa.


Over the past 10-15 years, immigrants have mainly come from Muslim countries such as Iraq, Syria and Somalia. Might this mass influx explain Sweden's rape explosion? It is difficult to give a precise answer, because Swedish law forbids registration based on people's ancestry or religion. One possible explanation is that, on average, people from the Middle East have a vastly different view of women and sex than Scandinavians have. And despite the attempts by the Swedish establishment to convince the population that everyone setting foot on Swedish soil becomes exactly like those who have lived here for dozens of generations, facts point in an altogether different direction.

Are these correlations accurate? Is the proposed causality plausible?

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    I can't address the violent crime numbers but the rape numbers have a big problem: They expanded the range of actions they class as "rape", thus making it impossible to compare old numbers with new. (Remember the rape allegation against Assange? The alleged act was not wearing the agreed-upon condom.) Commented Dec 18, 2015 at 2:48
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    @Loren skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/8498/…
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Dec 18, 2015 at 8:01
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    Definitions have changed. See also Wikipedia. International comparisons of rape statistics are effectively impossible.
    – gerrit
    Commented Dec 18, 2015 at 11:30
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    Sounds like a false correlation/causation assertion to me, even if the figures are correct (and I don't have any evidence to say that they are). You could argue that including the Eastern European countries in the Eurovision Song Contest was equally to blame, or switching from analogue to digital communication, or anything that has happened in the time period between the two samples.
    – GordonM
    Commented Dec 18, 2015 at 12:46
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    The hinted causation is contradictory with the article itself. If Sweden was second country in the World for rape (an meaningless claim without a world-wide shared definition of "rape"), it would be doing worse than Middle East countries. If anything, immigration from these countries of men with "vastly different view of women and sex than Scandinavians" should then decrease the trend for rape in Sweden, not increase it...
    – Evargalo
    Commented Nov 9, 2017 at 12:45

1 Answer 1


No, there is not even a good correlation between actual rape rates and immigration.

The figure that Gatestone Institute cites is the rate of reported rapes. This has indeed increased, but the reason has nothing to do with a supposed increase in actual rapes.

This is because crime victim surveys[1] have shown that the actual rates of rape have remained relatively unchanged from 2005 (when measurements started) to 2014 (latest year for which summary statistics is available). So we know that actual rates of rape are more or less constant during that period and violent crime has decreased overall for decades (according to The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker).

So why have the rate of reported rapes increased? There are a few reasons:

  • Expansion of rape definition in several steps: actions that are comparable to rape (1998)[4], helpless state (2005)[5] and particularly vulnerable situation (2013) [6][2].

  • Increased tendency to report crime: the observed tendency to report crime, as measured by number of rape reports / number of rapes in crime victim surveys has doubled between 2005 (10%) and 2010 (20%) [3].

  • Changes in how police handle rape reports: Swedish police makes one police report per rape, so if a person has been raped 30 times in a relationship, it will count as 30 separate rape crimes and they have made a conscious effort to file all sex crimes that could be rape as rape even though they might end up as being another sex crime or no crime at all [2].

So there is not even a correlation to speak of. Sweden has had lots of immigration during 2005-2014, yet more or less constant actual rates of rape.

Anti-immigration activists often retort by claiming that immigrants are overrepresented in crime statistics and while true, the observed overrepresentation is smaller for immigrants (2.5x) than for men (3.5x) and people who are unemployed, on welfare or without high school education (5x-6x), so they are blowing it way out of proportion [7].


All references (except the last one) come from the Swedish Council for Crime Prevention (Brottsförebyggande Rådet, BRÅ), which is a Swedish governmental agency that collects statistics and writes reports about crime. The last reference is from the National Centre for Knowledge on Men's Violence Against Women, University of Uppsala.

Unfortunately, they are almost all in Swedish (since they are primary sources), but BRÅ is a recognized authority on crime statistics in Sweden, even among the anti-immigration activists.

[1] https://web.archive.org/web/20170228040947/https://www.bra.se/bra/brott-och-statistik/statistik/utsatthet-for-brott/ntu.html (red line is sex crimes, yearly reports contain information about rapes specifically)

[2] https://www.bra.se/bra/bra-in-english/home/news-from-bra/archive/news/2011-01-18-how-common-is-rape-in-sweden-compared-to-other-european-countries.html

[3] https://www.bra.se/bra/nytt-fran-bra/arkiv/press/2012-11-06-allt-fler-polisanmaler-nar-de-utsatts-for-brott.html

[4] https://www.bra.se/download/18.cba82f7130f475a2f1800012829/2005_07_valdtakt_kartlaggning.pdf (p. 16)

[5] https://www.bra.se/download/18.744c0a913040e4033180001042/2011_6_polisanmalda_valdtkter_barn.pdf (pp. 9-10)

[6] http://www.nck.uu.se/Kunskapscentrum/Kunskapsbanken/amnen/Sexuellt_vald/Sexualbrottslagstiftningen/

[7] https://www.bra.se/download/18.cba82f7130f475a2f1800012697/2005_17_brottslighet_bland_personer_fodda_sverige_och_utlandet.pdf (p. 35 )

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    You are misquoting the public statistics at several points. The first survey only estimates the number of incidents and does not provide any actual values. The relatively constant rate you're referring to is the number of sex related crimes in total and not the number of rapes. The estimated number of rapes has changed significantly and risen from 18,000 in 2009 to 70,000 in 2013. The report points out that these numbers are potentially very inaccurate, since they are based on the victims perception of the situation and not on the legal definition of 'rape'. Commented Dec 20, 2015 at 14:12
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    Furthermore, the overrepresentation of immigrants in the category 'rape or rape attempt' is 5.0 and not 2.5 as you're quoting. The number can be found on page 43 of the report you are referring to. Commented Dec 20, 2015 at 14:16
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    @Tor-EinarJarnbjo 1. Of course it estimates the number of cases. That is what all studies do. No study of crime has the entire population as the sample. You are simply being facetious. I use the term actual in contrast to reported to refer to crime victim studies instead of reported figures. Commented Dec 20, 2015 at 14:31
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    @Tor-EinarJarnbjo 3. The overrepresentation I cited is for all crimes, which I specifically wrote. I never talked about overrepresentation for rape or attempted rape. Of course your objection does not hold any water, since men are even more overrepresented in sex crimes / rapes / attempted rapes than crime in general. The general point here is that anti-immigration activists freak out over immigrant crime (including rape / attempted rape), but hardly bat an eye when it comes to these other groups, which exposes a key inconsistency / contradiction in their position. Commented Dec 20, 2015 at 14:35
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    @Tor-EinarJarnbjo Consider posting your own answer.
    – Jonathon
    Commented Dec 21, 2015 at 2:25

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