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Foreign nationals suspects in one-fifth of sexual offenses

Around 20 percent more sex crimes were reported to police in Finland during the first nine months of this year than during the same period of 2015. One-fifth of the suspects in reported sexual offenses were foreign nationals.

Pasilan poliisitalo.
Police received 2,545 sex crimes reports during the first nine months of this year. Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle

New crime statistics released by Finland's National Police Board show a sharp rise in the number of reported rapes and other sex crimes.

During the period of January through September of this year, reports of 2,545 sex crimes were filed with police, around one-fifth more than during the first nine months of last year.

Of these, approximately a third, 865, were reports of rape, 433 were of sexual harassment and 946 of the sexual abuse of minors.

There has been a significant rise in the number of foreign nationals suspected in these cases. During January-September 2015, 246 foreign nationals were suspects in reported sex crimes. This year that figure was 525. Asylum seekers were suspected offenders in 129 cases. In the 2015 nine-month statistics, foreign nationals were suspects in around 10% of all sex crimes. This year that figure is approximately 20%.

According to Statistics Finland, as of the end of 2015, there were 231,295 foreign citizens living permanently in Finland, out of a total population of 5,471,753. This corresponds to about 4.2 percent of the population.

Rootless and alienated

Both police and academics say that the higher figures may reflect higher rates of reporting, rather than an actual rise in the number of sex crimes.

In terms of their share in the population, foreign nationals have long been overrepresented as the perpetrators of sex crimes. One explanation is that a large number of resident foreigners are young men. But this is only part of the explanation, according to Hannu Niemi, who has studied immigrants as both the perpetrators and victims of crime.

"The issues of age and social background indeed do explain some of the difference, but not all. There are other factors," he points out.

"They may be the types who are described as rootless and alienated. An individual may find himself in a situation where he feels no connection to a new country and its rules. At the same time, the rules of one's own former country no longer apply," notes Niemi.

28.10.16: Added foreign population figure for comparison.

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