Anita Heber – Eurocrim2021

Stranger Danger? Political Narratives of Immigrants and Crime

Anita Heber. Photo: Vilhelm Stokstad / Kontinent

Migration and crime are high on the political agenda in most Western European countries. Migration flows are increasingly viewed as a threat to national security – also in the penally exceptional, Nordic welfare countries – and migration is less and less human rights-oriented. Political debates on ‘crimmigration’ can influence migration policy, policing as well as sentencing practices, and hence it can be crucial to study how immigrants are linked to crime in the political debate.

This study explores how migrants are associated with crime, and analyses the Swedish parliamentary debate on this issue during three years: 2018-2020. Analytically it uses theories about ‘the Stranger’, research about crimmigration, and the radical-right to study statements made by Swedish parliamentarians.

In the analysis of the debate on immigrants and crime, four narratives were identified: the Islamic terrorist, the Criminal, the Outsider, and the Good Worker. Further, the analysis shows that it is the radical-right party, the Sweden Democrats, who is driving the crimmigration debate.

This study fills in gaps in previous research and deepens our criminological understanding of how migration and crime come to be politicized in a welfare society.