Founded in 1864, Dagens Nyheter (DN) is the largest morning newspaper in Sweden and tend to stand above popular Swedish tabloids that often play hard and fast with the truth to sell single copies. However, recent events have called into question the ability of this newspaper to maintain a basic degree of credibility.
Dagens Nyheter decided to publish a full-page advertisement for the anti-immigration conspiracy book “Immigration and Cover-Up” earlier today. The ad, bought Karl-Olov Arnstberg (one of the authors), consists of a list of eight enormously misleading anti-immigration falsehoods without any sources, a picture of the book and how to order it. In response, here are brief refutations of each of the points, backed reference to primary statistics were applicable. As we will see, Arnstberg exaggerated the number of refugees given permanent residence permits by 400%, provided many deceptive formulations, performed an appeal to popularity and ignored confounders.
During 2012, Sweden granted ~25k permanent residence permits to refugees, not 111k
According to statistics from Swedish Migration Board, the total number of permanent residence permits given to refugees was around 25k. Data extracted from the Swedish Migration Board document “Beviljade uppehållstillstånd och registrerade uppehållsrätter, första och andra instans. Förstagångstillstånd. Helåret 2012.” (“Approved residence permits and registrations residence rights, first and second court level. First-time approval. Full year 2012”). It can be found here (webcite). A lay summary can be found here (webcite).
Here is the break-down per category:
—-> People who fulfill UN refugee criteria (“Konventionsflyktingar”), i. e. people “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country”. For 2012, this figure was 4617 individuals.
—-> People who fulfill the criteria for “in need for protection” (“Asyl-Skyddsbehövande”) i.e. do not fulfill UN criteria for refugee, but that there is a rational reason to presume that the immigrant if he or she would return to his or her home country, “would be at a high risk for being punished by death, corporal punishment, torture or other humiliating treatment or punishment, or as a civilian have a serious and personal risk to be harmed due to arbitrary violence due to an external or internal armed conflict”. For 2012, this figure was 9095 people.
—-> People who fall under “particularly distressing circumstances” (“Asyl-Synnerligen ömmande omständigheter”) i.e. permanent residence permits that are granted in extraordinarily rare circumstances when immigrations have a life-threatening physical or psychiatric condition or a serious physical disability. For 2012, this was 1328 individuals.
—-> People who fall under the definition of quota refugee (“Kvotflyktingar”) i.e. resettlement of refugees who cannot return to their country and cannot stay in the country where they are currently staying. Essentially, this is a transfer of refugees from other countries that have refugees to Sweden. For 2012, this was 1853.
—-> People who were suppose to be denied permanent residence permit and deported can be given a stay of deportation (webcite) if the situation in the country to which the immigrant is to be deported has change, or if the health situation of the immigrant has changed in such a way that deportation cannot be carried out. During 2012, 462 people were given such a legal stay of deportation.
—-> Relatives of people in any of the above category. For 2012, this was 7897 individuals.
In sum total, the number of immigrant refugees who got a permanent residence permit was 4617 + 9095 + 1328+ 1853 + 462 + 7897 = 25252, less than a quarter of the claim made by Arnstberg.
So how did Arnstberg reach the 111k figure? By adding students, Swedes who move back to Sweden from other countries, people from Europe who move to Sweden and immigrant workers and their relatives. He also fails to subtract the number of Swedes who move from Sweden to other countries, so his data is not based on net immigration.
Sweden granted ~254k (not 1.1 million) refugees permanent residence permit between 2000-2013
Adding up the quota refugees, UN convention refugees, in need of protection, humanitarian reasons, stay of deportation, temporary law for children and child families, and relatives to refugees from 2000 to 2012 and adding the figures for 2013 up to October gives a result of around 253k refugees and relatives of refugees. Here are the precise calculations.
Data from 2000-2012 was extracted from the Swedish Migration Board document “Beviljade uppehållstillstånd 1980-2012” (“granted residence permits 1980-2012”) that can be found here (webcite) by summing the following columns from 2000 to 2012: quota refugees (“Flyk. kvot”), UN convention refugees (“FN:s konventionen”), in need of protection (“Skyddsbehövande”), humanitarian reasons (“Hum. skäl”), stay of deportation (“Verkställighetshinder”), Temporary law concerning children and child-families (“Tillfällig lag (barn och barnfam.)”) and refugee relatives (“därav flyk. anh.”). A list of all time-series documents in this collection can be found here (webcite).
Quota refugees: 1501 + 1089 + 1042 + 942 + 1822 + 1263 + 1626 + 1845 + 2209 + 1936 + 1786 + 1896 + 1853 = 20810.
UN convention refugees: 480 + 307 + 482 + 647 + 546 + 790 + 963 + 1113 + 1934 + 1824 + 2304 + 2870 + 4617 = 18877.
In need of protection: 1141 + 815 + 956 + 545 + 729 + 1174 + 3728 + 10208 + 5278 + 6164 + 6814 + 6148 + 9095 = 52795.
Humanitarian reasons: 7424 + 5730 + 6013 + 4326 + 3043 + 2487 + 3657 + 3938 + 1571 + 995 + 860 + 1345 + 1328 = 42717.
Stay of deportation (category started 2007): 262 + 136 + 200 + 309 + 392 + 462 = 1761.
Temporary law concerning children and child-families (2005-2008): 2510 + 14823 + 318 + 14 = 17665.
Refugee relatives: 3538 + 4104 + 4632 + 4763 + 3085 + 2004 + 3799 + 7691 + 10665 + 9273 + 3166 + 3037 + 7897 = 67654
Sum total for 2000-2012: 20810 + 18877 + 52795 + 42720 + 1761 + 17665 + 67654 = 222282
Data from 2013 up to October (the 111k assertion claimed to include only data up to October) was extracted from the Swedish Migration Board document “Beviljade uppehållstillstånd och registrerade uppehållsrätter, första och andra instans (beslut av Migrationsverket och Migrationsdomstolarna). Förstagångstillstånd. 2013” (“Approved residence permits and registrations residence rights, first and second court level (decision by Swedish Board of Migration and the Migration Courts). First-time approval. 2013”) and it can be found here (webcite). For more links to recent statistics for 2013, see here (webcite).
Quota refugees: 20 + 166 + 256 + 315 + 22 + 369 + 33 + 89 + 141 + 376 = 1787.
UN convention refugees: 356 + 606 + 626 + 647 + 730 + 701 + 568 + 547 + 634 + 779 = 6194.
In need of protection: 792 + 1148 + 1169 + 1255 + 1300 + 952 + 940 + 979 + 1548 + 2431 = 12514.
Particularly distressing circumstances: 88 + 104 + 107 + 171 + 168 + 157 + 115 + 114 + 86 + 90 = 1200.
Stay of deportation: 30 + 47 + 33 + 23 + 34 + 42 + 46 + 40 + 41 + 43 = 379.
Refugee relatives: 1180 + 1279 + 1004 + 1004 + 967 + 787 + 487 + 836 + 706 + 903 = 9153.
Sum total for 2013 (Jan-Oct): 1787 + 6194 + 12514 + 1200 + 379 + 9153 = 31227.
If we combine the data from 2000 to 2012 and the data from 2013 (Jan-Oct), we arrive at the following figure.
For 2000-2013 (Oct): 222282 + 31227 = 253509.
Again, this is roughly 1/4 of the figure asserted by Arnstberg and the reasons are the same: including categories that do not qualify as refugees.
Throughout the ad, Arnstberg ignores the issues of confounders. In particular, no attention is given to the interaction between immigration and socio-economic status. That is, the reason why immigrants are overrepresented in the statistics for social welfare recipients is not necessarily because they have a certain ethnic background, but rather because of prior socio-economic status. After all, it is not the richest individuals who generally become refugees.
Deceptive framing of statistics
Another trick used by Arnstberg is to present statistics using a deceptive framing technique. Instead of stating that two thirds of relatives are not on social welfare, he states that one third of relatives are on social welfare. Instead of stating that 30% of asylum seekers who got a permanent residence permit had a job after two years, he decides to phrase it 70% of asylum seekers who got a permanent residence permit did not have a job after two years. Instead of pointing out that other Nordic countries take in too few war refugees from Syria (e. g. Finland has only accepted around 300), he tries to argue that Sweden accepts too many. And so on.
This is a common deceptive technique used by those who want to twist and distort statistics for their own ideological goals.
The popularity of a conspiracy theory is irrelevant to its accuracy
Around 50% of Americans are creationists and around 60% of Americans believe in conspiracy theories of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. This is in no way evidence against evolution or evidence for the existence of a second shooter. The popularity of a given conspiracy theory is irrelevant to its accuracy. The “Immigration and Cover-Up” ad claims that 64% of Swedes do not trust the media reporting on societal problems caused by immigration. In reality, this is at most evidence that the misinformation spread by right-wing anti-immigration movements is affecting the average citizen not evidence for the propaganda positions driven by Arnstberg.
Remaining unresolved issues
Why did Dagens Nyheter publish it? They appeal to their “liberal tradition of a generous ad policy that also include positions that differ from DN”. However, they also claim that they “have carried out a fact check before publication”.
…what fact check?