World

Attacks On Young Women In Sweden Were Covered Up By Police, Reports Say

| by Diana Kruzman
Stockholm FestivalStockholm Festival

Swedish police have taken responsibility for failing to communicate information about a series of sexual assaults at a youth festival in Stockholm. The statement came after a Swedish newspaper accused the police of purposely withholding information about the attacks --  which were mostly allegedly carried out by migrants -- in an attempt to avoid a wave of anti-immigrant sentiment.

A dozen cases of sexual assault were reported at the We Are Sthlm festival in August 2015, Swedish Radio News reports. But the uptick in violence at the festival dates back to 2014, when gangs of boys and young men began working together to harass young girls, according to organizers of the festival.

In 2015, the police identified 50 suspects and removed 200 young men from the festival over five days.

On Jan. 10, Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter reported that police had failed to inform the public of the true extent of the assaults, which targeted girls as young as 12. The police denied accusations of a cover-up but admitted responsibility for not communicating the extent of the crimes to the public.

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"As [the person responsible for communications] in Stockholm, I am self-critical, we should have communicated that,” Varg Gyllander, Stockholm police's head of communications, told Swedish Radio News. “I actually do not know why it did not happen.”

At a press conference on Jan. 11, Swedish National Police Commissioner Dan Eliasson announced an internal investigation of the incident, which will determine whether the lack of communication from the police was an intentional crime requiring disciplinary action or a case of non-deliberate oversight.

Dagens Nyheter reported that the perpetrators were mostly migrants from the Middle East and Asia, including Afghanistan, according to RT. The newspaper also suggested that the information about the attacks was withheld in an attempt to avoid anti-immigrant retaliation, which has been building as Sweden has opened its doors to refugees.

Relative to population size, Sweden has accepted more asylum-seekers than any other European country and was the first to offer permanent residence to Syrian refugees.

On Dec. 30, 90 women in Cologne, Germany, reported being groped and robbed by gangs of men, many of them migrants, The New York Times notes. These assaults, like the attacks in Sweden, are seen by many as a reason to restrict immigration even as European leaders call upon citizens to accept migrants seeking refuge from violence in other parts of the world. 

Sources: Swedish Radio NewsRTThe New York Times / Photo credit: Alexander Tillheden/City of Stockholm, Mispahn/Flickr