Just what did US President Donald Trump mean when he suggested some kind of immigration-related security incident in Sweden?
Addressing a rally in Florida on Saturday, Trump said, “look at what’s happening last night in Sweden”, as he listed parts of Europe recently hit by terror attacks.
Baffled Swedes immediately took to social media wondering what on earth Trump might be referring to. Twitter users went on imagining situations involving Swedish institutions like the furniture brand IKEA and the pop group Abba, and posting images of snowmen, reindeer and meatballs with the hashtag #LastNightInSweden.
What Trump said
Trump, who in his first weeks in office has sought to tighten U.S. borders on national security grounds, cited Sweden as a country facing problems with immigrants.
“Here’s the bottom line. We’ve got to keep our country safe. You look at what’s happening. We’ve got to keep our country safe. You look at what’s happening in Germany, you look at what’s happening last night in Sweden.weden. Who would believe this? Sweden. They took in large numbers. They’re having problems like they never thought possible,” Trump said.
“You look at what’s happening in Brussels. You look at what’s happening all over the world. Take a look at Nice. Take a look at Paris. We’ve allowed thousands and thousands of people into our country and there was no way to vet those people. There was no documentation. There was no nothing. So we’re going to keep our country safe.”
What actually happened
No terror attack or other high-profile crime was reported in Sweden on Friday.
On Sunday, Trump explained in a tweet that he was referring to a TV report he’d seen on immigration in the country. Fox News, known to be among Trump’s favourite cable TV channels, did run a report on Friday night about alleged migrant-related crime problems in the country.
A White House spokeswoman told reporters Trump had been referring generally to rising crime and not a specific incident in the Scandinavian country.
But official figures show Sweden’s crime rate has actually fallen over the past decade, even as the country has taken in hundreds of thousands of refugees, including from Syria and Iraq.
Trump’s comment came just weeks after one of his key advisers, Kellyanne Conway, referred to a “Bowling Green massacre” that never happened.
Olle Wästberg, former consul-general of Sweden in New York City, said he was not that surprised by the president’s latest claim, “because Trump says what suits him best – even if it’s false.”
“It’s serious of course when it’s coming from probably the most powerful man in the world… Many of those who share Trump’s views and want to close the borders are of course encouraged by his behaviour,” Wästberg added.
But demonstrators in New York were having none of it. Over a thousand people rallied in Times Square on Sunday to show their support to Muslims and protest Trump’s immigration policies.
The protesters waved American flags, held signs saying “No Muslim Ban,” and chanted “We are One”.