From perceptions to facts - asylum seekers and neighbourhood crime
The arrival of a reception centre for asylum seekers (in The Netherlands AZC) is often accompanied by protests among locals who fear that the arrival of such a centre would lead to more crime.
The Ministry of Justice and Security has requested the Research and Documentation Centre to carry out a research project on asylum seekers and neighbourhood crime. The investigative report with the title: “From perceptions to facts. Asylum seekers and neighbourhood crime” has been presented to the Dutch parliament on 1 February. The report concludes: although the share of people with police contacts among the asylum seekers is on average higher than among the general public, the presence of an asylum reception centre has no statistically significant effect on neighbourhood safety.
The research project is based on population and neighbourhood analyses with register data from Statistics Netherlands across several years. Statistics Netherlands has a treasure trove of information on individuals. For this study, Statistics Netherlands matched crime locations derived from reports and charges resulting from police investigation to neighbourhoods. Addresses of asylum reception centres were also matched, which made it possible to determine the neighbourhoods with an asylum reception centre and those without one. Consequently crime levels in neighbourhoods in years with and without asylum reception centres were compared, while keeping other influences on potential changes in a neighbourhood’s crime level constant.
In none of the analyses, the presence of an asylum reception centre was found to have a demonstrable statistically significant effect on the amount of neighbourhood crime and the individual likelihood of victimization. Likewise, no significant effects were found when comparing different types of reception centres, and when considering the relative size of a centre and its demographic composition (e.g. percentage of male asylum seekers in the centre).
However, in all examined years the percentage of asylum migrants in reception centres suspected of committing a crime is on average higher than among the regular population. It is estimated that in 2015 the percentage of crime suspects among the asylum migrants was between 2.5% and 3.7%. Among the regular population that percentage was estimated at 1.1%. It turns out that this overrepresentation can to a great extent be explained by the diverging composition of the group of asylum seekers in terms of their age and gender: it frequently concerns young men. In addition, the weak socio-economic position of asylum seekers and the fact that they often live outside a family structure play a role. Asylum seekers are less likely to be registered as a crime suspect than residents of the Netherlands with similar demographic and socio-economic characteristics.
Asylum seekers are responsible for a negligible part of crime in The Netherlands. According to this research it appears that they represent approximately 0.5% of the crime suspects.