Nigel Farage has sparked criticism after claiming a Swedish town is giving locals the option of an armed police escort due to concerns over immigrants.

The former Ukip leader has previously depicted Sweden as a crime and rape hotspot due to high immigration.

 

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On his LBC Radio show, Mr Farage cited a story, later written up by far right news website Breitbart and conspiracy website InfoWars, which claimed the people in the Swedish town of Oskarshamn were too afraid to leave the house at night.

He said: “The caller earlier who told me how wonderful Sweden was and the picture I was painting was wrong - [In] the Swedish city of Oskarshamn, joggers going out after night will have the option of being accompanied by armed police officers.

“This is something that the local inspector thinks will make people a bit safer at night, going out in a Swedish city.

“Who would have believed I would have said that about a Swedish city just five years ago? It is truly incredible.”

But the idea, which was first reported by the Swedish national broadcaster STV, was created by a local police officer who has set up a volunteer programme to encourage local residents to exercise more and had nothing to do with fears over immigration. 

Police Inspector Peter Karlsson said he came up with the idea after noticing that many people who wanted to run and walk during the winter were nervous about running in the dark.

He then got together a group of his colleagues to set up an armed escort in their spare time for any joggers who want to run at night. 

He stressed that it was not needed as the town had little crime but said people were scared due to “events around the world and feel unsafe when it’s dark”.

He added that they only needed to be armed due to protocol which says police must be “equipped for service” when out in the community. 

When Breitbart covered the story, it highlighted the “armed” aspect and used it as part of its ongoing campaign to depict Sweden as crime ridden since the start of the refugee crisis in 2015. 

It linked the Oskarshamn story with a report published by Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet in 2016 which claimed 46 per cent of women over 16 felt scared to go out after dark in Swedish cities.

But the report only recorded fear of crime rather than instances of crime itself and made no reference to the presence of refugees as the reason women were scared. 

Responding to Mr Farage's comments, journalist James Savage, who is British but lives in Sweden, posted a lengthy thread on Twitter about how "fed up" he was with people like the politician "spreading lies about this country to advance their racist agenda".

He said Mr Farage and others target Sweden because it is an "open, liberal" country which is so successful it "utterly discredits [their] brand of closed, suspicious nationalism".

Others who had either lived in Sweden or knew people who do ridiculed the claims.

Far-right media and politicians have recently attempted to depict Sweden as being overrun by immigrants who have created “no go zones” where even the police are too scared to venture. 

Mr Farage recently sparked an Ofcom inquiry after claiming Sweden has become the “rape capital of Europe” due to the influx of predominantly Muslim refugees fleeing violence in Syria and Iraq.

The claim was widely contradicted by experts, such as Philip N Cohen, a sociologist at the University of Maryland, who produced a graph showing rapes recorded by police started increasing after 2004, eight years before the refugee population started increasing in 2012.

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