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Trump immigration comment baffles Sweden, President says he saw something on TV

US President Donald Trump’s suggestion that Sweden experienced an immigration-related security incident prompted a baffled response from the Scandinavian country on Sunday as diplomats asked for an explanation and citizens responded with amusement.

world Updated: Feb 20, 2017 21:58 IST
AP
President Donald Trump and Melania Trump stand together during a campaign rally at the AeroMod International hangar at Orlando Melbourne International Airport on February 18 in Melbourne, Florida.
President Donald Trump and Melania Trump stand together during a campaign rally at the AeroMod International hangar at Orlando Melbourne International Airport on February 18 in Melbourne, Florida. (AFP)

US President Donald Trump’s suggestion that Sweden experienced an immigration-related security incident prompted a baffled response from the Scandinavian country on Sunday as diplomats asked for an explanation and citizens responded with amusement.

Trump, who in his first weeks in office has tried to sharply tighten US borders on national security grounds, cited Sweden as a country that had experienced problems with immigrants in remarks at a rally on Saturday.

“You look at what’s happening last night in Sweden,” Trump said. “Sweden. Who would believe this? Sweden. They took in large numbers. They’re having problems like they never thought possible.”

That appeared to confuse the Swedish government, which asked the US State Department to explain what the new president meant.

“We are trying to get clarity,” Swedish foreign ministry spokeswoman Catarina Axelsson said.

With Swedes scratching their heads and ridiculing Trump’s remarks, the US President said he was referring to something he saw on television.

The State Department said it did not comment on diplomatic communications.

Trump has been widely criticised for making assertions with little supporting evidence.

In recent months, he has argued that more than three million people voted fraudulently in the US election, an assertion that election officials say is false, and incorrectly stated that he won the election by the most decisive margin in decades.

Swedish news sources made no mention of a recent terrorism attack or other high-profile crime in the country.

“Nothing spectacular happened in Sweden on Friday,” wrote the Local, an English-language website in Sweden.

Fox News, a US cable news channel that has sometimes been cited favourably by Trump, ran a report on Friday night about alleged migrant-related crime problems in the country.

Read: ‘What has he been smoking’: Swedes troll Trump after his claims of terror incident

The president may be referring to a segment aired on the Fox News Channel show “Tucker Carlson Tonight” that reported Sweden had accepted more than 160,000 asylum-seekers last year but that only 500 of the migrants had found jobs in Sweden.

The report, which was illustrated with video of broken windows and fires, went on to say that a surge in gun violence and rape had followed the influx of immigrants.

Sweden’s crime rate has fallen since 2005, official statistics show, even as the country has taken in hundreds of thousands of immigrants from war-torn countries like Syria and Iraq.

Swedish foreign minister Margot Wallstrom appeared to respond to Trump’s latest statement by posting on Twitter an excerpt of a recent speech in which she said democracy and diplomacy “require us to respect science, facts and the media”.

Her predecessor was less circumspect.

“Sweden? Terror attack? What has he been smoking? Questions abound,” former Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt wrote on Twitter.

Other Swedes mocked Trump’s remark on Twitter using the hashtag #LastNightInSweden, posting pictures of reindeer, Swedish meatballs and people assembling the country’s famous IKEA furniture.

“#lastnightinsweden my son dropped his hotdog in the campfire. So sad!” Twitter user Adam Bergsveen wrote.