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AfD fuels xenophobia with distorted crime figures

Sou-Jie van Brunnersum
August 5, 2019

A new study reveals that the far-right party disproportionately focuses on crimes allegedly committed by foreigners. Crimes committed by Germans are mostly ignored.

AfD flags in Bavaria
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/D. Karmann

The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party creates a distorted impression of criminality in Germany by focusing on foreigners suspected of crimes and ignoring others, a new study has found.

Professor Thomas Hestermann from Hamburg's Macromedia University of Applied Sciences and Professor Elisa Hoven from Leipzig University analyzed more than 240 AfD press releases from 2018 that dealt with crime.

"Ninety-five percent of the suspects described therein are non-German, only 5% are German — and even the few German suspects mentioned are also consistently referred to as having a migration background," the researchers said.

By comparison, Germany’s official police crime statistics show that the proportion of non-German suspects is less than 35%.

Immigrants from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan accounted for 5.3% of all suspects in 2018, with Afghans and Syrians suspected in 1.5% and 2.5% of all criminal activities.

In the AfD press releases, the percentage of crimes attributed to Afghans and Syrians was 20% and 19%.

Read more: Syrian girls attacked in Berlin, racism suspected

Other distortions

The researchers also said the AfD's claims of a growing "knife epidemic" in Germany cannot be statistically proven, especially since data collected by the police are incomplete. Current figures from Lower Saxony's State Office for Criminal Investigation show that only 2.8% of recorded acts of violence in 2017 were perpetrated with knives.

The study also found that the AfD does not address effective measures in violence prevention in their press releases and instead focuses on a repressive "law and order" solution to crime.

Above all, the party advocates for a tough stance against immigrants and foreigners living in Germany, especially Muslims.

"The AfD presents itself here as the only party that is prepared to fight crime with what it sees as the right means: by closing the borders and immediately expelling criminals," the authors said.

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