(CNSNews.com) – The Swedish government said Sunday it looks forward to “informing the U.S. administration about Swedish immigration and integration policies,” after a reference to Sweden in a speech by President Trump left the Scandinavian country bemused.
Sunday’s comment from the Swedish Embassy in Washington followed a tweet by the president, explaining that his remarks at a rousing Florida rally the previous day referred to a report on Fox News relating to immigrants in Sweden.
Earlier, Swedish officials had expressed bewilderment about Trump’s comments, with the embassy saying it was “unclear to us what President Trump was referring to” and saying U.S. officials had been asked to explain them.
The kerfuffle arose when Trump in his Melbourne, Fla. speech criticized judges for suspending his immigration order, and said “we’ve got to keep our country safe.”
Trump then went on to suggest that countries which had taken in large numbers of refugees have paid a heavy price.
“You look at what’s happening in Germany,” he said. “You look at what’s happening last night in Sweden – Sweden – who would believe this? They took in large numbers. They’re having problems like they never thought possible.”
He then went on reference locations of Islamic terror attacks in Europe in recent years, including Brussels, Paris and Nice.
Assuming Trump was implying there had been a terror attack in Sweden, former Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt tweeted, “Sweden? Terror attack? What has he been smoking? Questions abound.”
Current foreign minister Margot Wallström was a little more subtle in her dig. Without referring directly to Trump or his comment, she tweeted simply, “Speaking of which,” and then pointed to an excerpt from a statement of foreign policy she presented to lawmakers last week which noted that Oxford Dictionaries had named “post-truth” as the word of the year in 2016.
Other Swedes took to social media, posting mocking messages about what may or may not have happened “last night in Sweden.”
But Trump in a new tweet explained, “My statement as to what’s happening in Sweden was in reference to a story that was broadcast on Fox News concerning immigrants & Sweden.”
In that Fox News segment, documentary film-maker Ami Horowitz spoke about a film he has made about Sweden’s experience with refugees in recent years.
Sweden has had an “open door” policy on refugees for a decade. Horowitz spoke about a surge of crime and rapes, and allegations that the government sometimes tries to cover up the identity of the perpetrators.
Coincidentally, last week a leading British think tank released a report examining attitudes in six European countries on issues including immigration. It found that Sweden, a country with a “strong tradition of liberalism,” has undergone a significant shift in attitudes regarding immigration in the last couple of years.
The report by the Demos think tank in conjunction with Sweden’s Fores think thank said that more than 160,000 people applied for asylum in Sweden in 2015, including some 50,000 were from Syria, 40,000 from Afghanistan and 20,000 from Iraq. (The number dropped substantially last year, as it did elsewhere in Europe, as a result of a migration agreement between E.U. and Turkey.)
The report highlighted several measures taken by Swedish authorities since the 2015 influx to tighten up procedures, such as temporary border controls and restrictions on refugee family reunification admissions.
It also recorded – “in a country where nationalism used to be a political taboo” – an increase in anti-immigration rhetoric by politicians, and not just those on the populist far right.
“Swedish political discourse has shifted towards questions of national identity and how immigrants need to assimilate into Swedish culture and adopt Swedish values,” it said.
Meanwhile the most recent annual yearbook of the Swedish Security Service, covering 2014, highlights two particular security issues relating to the refugee influx.
The first, links to terrorism, affected a very small number of the 81,000 applications for asylum in 2014, it said. One hundred and nine cases were referred to the Security Service, and 24 applicants were duly rejected.
But it pointed out that in some cases, even those individuals who the service recommended be rejected “stay on in Sweden, which means that we must take account of any increased risk this may cause.”
The other refugee-linked security issue identified in the handbook is what it called “refugee espionage” – when foreign governments “send their agents to Sweden to target and try to influence dissidents in exile.”
It said around 75 percent of cases in which foreign diplomats are declared persona non grata in Sweden relate to such cases, demonstrating “just how serious and extensive these activities currently are.”
Sweden, a country of some 9.8 million people, is a country slightly bigger than California, located between Norway and Finland in northern Europe.