In its survey of reported criminal offences in which asylum seekers were suspects, Finland's Police University College has highlighted a prevalence of Iraqis and Afghans in terms of numbers, while also emphasizing that Algerians and Moroccans were punching above their weight.
All in all, the survey identified a total of 1,052 people suspected of criminal offences — some 95 of whom were men and a half of whom were 25 years old or less. Some 62 percent of the suspects were Iraqi citizens.
Crimes in which asylum seekers are suspects are most often related to alleged assault or reported threats, followed by property crimes, sex crimes as well as offences targeting reception centers and staff.
As for sexual offences, asylum seekers were named as suspects in a total of 161 cases. In the same cases, the victims were mainly identified as Finnish women. Furthermore, 46 percent of the victims were reported to be under 18.
"The data indicated that the background to crimes reported at reception centers often had to do with cultural and religious differences that caused problems among residents. A situation leading to assault can develop from a very trivial issue," Police University College researcher Suvi-Tuuli Mansikkamäki said in a press release.
According to Mansikkamäki, yet another cause of problems was the asylum seekers' apparent dissatisfaction with conditions at reception centers.
"Such dissatisfaction is expressed as crimes targeting reception centers as such and their staff. An asylum seeker may threaten staff or damage movable property in order to get a transfer to another reception center," Mansikkamäki explained.
At the same time, the report identified 1,066 victims altogether, one-third of whom were men and half of whom were Iraqi. Police noted that some individuals were represented in the statistics several times.
The research is based on 1,565 criminal reports booked in the police database in 2016. At that time the number of asylum seekers in Finland varied from 20,000 at minimum to a maximum of 30,000. There was no information about convictions or sentences handed down for the suspected offences.
Between 2015 and 2016, Iraqis and Afghans accounted for the majority of asylum seekers entering Finland and they were similarly represented as both suspects and victims in the alleged crimes reported to police. Seen proportionally, though, the percentage of Algerians and Moroccans stuck out in the report.
During the 2015 migrant crisis, Iraqis constituted the largest percentage of asylum seekers entering Finland. In the past two years, over 20,000 Iraqis sought asylum in Finland, as opposed to some 10,000 Iraqis residing in the Nordic country before the migrant crisis.
The study is the first of its kind conducted by police researchers. It is but one aspect of a broader project conducted by police and the Finnish Migration Board (Migri) in an effort to promote asylum seekers' understanding of basic human rights and developing methods for preventing violence.