What is the difference between Romanians and the rest of us? Because there is very little evidence to suggest it's criminality.
What is the difference between Romanians and the rest of us? There’s very little evidence to suggest it’s criminality
When UKIP leader Nigel Farage was asked by LBC Host James O’Brien last week “What about if a group of German children [moved in next door]? What’s the difference [between them and Romanians]?”, he replied that “You know what the difference is”.
Farage has since apologised for making the comments, but what the UKIP leader was trying to imply was clear: you wouldn’t want any Romanians moving next door to you because they would likely be criminals (nudge nudge, wink wink).
Farage’s “you know what the difference is” brought to mind former Tory leader Michael Howard’s question “Are you thinking what we’re thinking?”, which the Conservative Party put on its billboards prior to the 2005 General Election.
As it turned out, most people weren’t thinking what Michael Howard was thinking, and Labour easily won that election with a majority of 66.
The fact that today the Tories are vociferously attacking UKIP is progress. But it’s worth remembering that just nine short years ago the Conservatives were running their own campaign based on demonising migrants and ‘cracking down’ on travellers – a precursor to UKIP’s 2014 campaign, you could argue.
But I digress. I want to look at is whether or not Farage is correct – that you should be worried if a group of Romanian men suddenly decides to move in next door. For while the UKIP leader has since claimed that he “didn’t use the form of words in response that I would have liked to have used” in his original interview, he is sticking to the line that there is “too much criminality in London” because of the Romanians that live here.
In an add in the Telegraph yesterday, Farage made three claims:
92 per cent of all ATM crime in London is committed by Romanians
This claim is based on comments made by detective chief inspector Paul Barnard, who told an ITV documentary in 2012: “The fact is 92 per cent of all ATM fraud we see in this country is committed by Romanian nationals. Very, very tight communities, very tight gangs.”
Yet a Metropolitan Police Freedom of Information answer for 2012 found that only 5.8 per cent of people arrested for fraud in London were Romanian.
According to the Romanian ambassador to the UK, “in reality, for every 1,000 Romanians in London, only 13 were arrested, which – according to the figures presented by the Daily Mail (and cited by UKIP) – is half of the arrest rate for Britons”.
He added that “According to a recent statement of the Dedicated Cheque and Plastic Crime Unit in London, the latest annual figures show that, in 2012, the top five countries for fraudulent activity on UK issued cards were USA, France, Luxembourg, Italy and Ireland. Romanians are not mentioned on this top list”.
7 per cent of all crime across the 28 EU member states was caused by 240 Romanian gangs
According to Europol director Rob Wainwright, 240 organised crime groups from Romania account for 6.7 per cent of the total number of criminal networks currently active in Europe.
The difference between this and UKIP’s claim is that Wainwright is referring to the number of criminals – not the number of crimes committed. It’s simply false to claim that 7 per cent of all crime in the European Union is committed by Romanian gangs.
Correlation is obviously not causation, but there is also a negative correlation between property crime in London and the foreign share of the population. If migrants were the unruly criminals of UKIP’s imagination, you would at least expect there to have been a spike in property crime since 2004, when Britain opened its doors to most Eastern European citizens. There hasn’t been. In fact the opposite is true.
28,000 Romanians were arrested in the last five years in the Metropolitan Police area alone
This figure refers to the number of arrests from 2008 to 2012, not the number of people arrested. And this matters – it’s likely that many of the recorded offenses have been committed by the same people.
So once again, UKIP are wrong to cite the figure in the way that they have – 28,000 Romanians haven’t been arrested in the Metropolitan area in the last five years. Arrests are also quite obviously not the same as convictions, as has been pointed out by the Romanian Ambassador to the UK, Dr Ion Jinga.
To sum up
Two out of the three UKIP claims are plainly false, while one is very questionable – there clearly are Romanian gangs that are carrying out ATM crime, but the figure of 92 per cent is based on the comments of one chief inspector during a television documentary.
So what is the supposed difference between Romanians and the rest of us that we “know”, as Farage put it? Because there’s very little evidence to suggest it’s criminality.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.