Yet somewhere, lost in the middle of all the hip consensus of that Central London studio, what was almost entirely absent were the views of most people sitting at home, a world that few people ever appear to want to put their finger on in public. The upsides of migration have become easy to talk about: to simply nod to them is to express values of openness, tolerance and broad-mindedness. Yet to nod to, let alone express, the downsides of immigration is to invite accusations of closed-mindedness and intolerance, xenophobia and barely disguised racism. All of which leaves the attitude of the majority of the public almost impossible to express.
For even if you believe – as most people do – that some immigration is a good thing and makes a country a more interesting place, it does not follow that the more immigration the better. Nor does it mean – however many upsides there are – that there are not downsides which should be equally easy to state without accusations of malice. For mass immigration does not continue bringing the same level of benefits to a society the more people who come in. If it is possible to praise mass immigration for making us richer as a whole, it should also be possible to explain that the process has made us poorer in some ways, not least in introducing or re-introducing cultural problems that we might have hoped never to see.
The January before the release of the 2011 census results a gang of nine Muslim men — seven of Pakistani origin, two from North Africa — were convicted and sentenced at the Old Bailey in London for the sex trafficking of children between the ages of 11 and 15. On that occasion one of the victims sold into a form of modern-day slavery was a girl of 11 who was branded with the initial of her ‘owner’ abuser: ‘M’ for Mohammed. The court heard that Mohammed ‘branded her to make her his property and to ensure others knew about it’. This did not happen in a Saudi or Pakistani backwater, nor even in one of the northern towns that so much of the country had forgotten about and which had seen many similar cases over the same period. This happened in Oxfordshire between 2004 and 2012.
Nobody could argue that gang rape or child abuse are the preserve of immigrants, but the development of particular types of child-rape gangs revealed – and a subsequent government-commissioned inquiry confirmed6 – specific cultural ideas and attitudes that were clearly held by some immigrants. These include views about women, specifically non-Muslim women, other religions, races and sexual minorities that were pre-medieval. Fear of accusations of ‘racism’ for pointing out such facts, and the small but salutary number of careers like Ray Honeyford’s that had been publicly wrecked for saying far less, meant that it took years even for such facts as these to come out.
This has a terrorising effect far beyond the nation’s television studios, and with far more serious consequences. When these gang-rape cases came to court they did so in spite of local police, councillors and care-workers, many of whom were discovered to have failed to report such crimes involving immigrant gangs for fear of accusations of ‘racism’. The media followed suit, filling their reports with euphemisms as though trying to avoid helping the public to draw any conclusions. So in cases like those in Oxfordshire the gangs were described as ‘Asian’ when they almost solely involved Muslim men of Pakistani origin. The fact that their victims were chosen precisely because they were not Muslims was only occasionally mentioned in the courts and rarely dwelt upon by the press. Instead of carrying out their jobs without fear or favour, police, prosecutors and journalists behaved as though their job was to mediate between the public and the facts.
Naturally none of this ever comes up in any ‘acceptable’ discussion on immigration. Introducing gang rape to a BBC discussion on immigration would be like introducing bestiality to a documentary on sickly pets. Only the good and happy can be dwelt upon, while the bad is ignored. And it is not only the harder edges of the discussion that get lost, but the softer, everyday concerns that people have: not savage denunciations, but simple regret that the society they grew up in has been changed without any care for the views of the majority of the people.
It was in the early 2000s in England that stories that the Sikh and white working-class communities had been telling for years were finally investigated by the media. These revealed that the organised grooming of often underage young girls by gangs of Muslim men of North African or Pakistani background was a theme in towns throughout the north of England and further afield. In each case the local police had been too scared to look into the issue, and when the media finally looked into it they too shied away. A 2004 documentary on social services in Bradford had its screening postponed after self-proclaimed ‘anti-fascists’ and local police chiefs appealed to Channel 4 to drop the documentary. The sections that dealt with the sexual exploitation of white girls by ‘Asian’ gangs were accused of being potentially inflammatory. In particular, these authorities insisted, the screening ahead of local elections could assist the British National Party at the polls. The documentary was finally screened months after the elections. But everything about this case and the details that followed provided a microcosm of a problem and a reaction which were going to spread across Europe.
Campaigning on, or even mentioning, the issue of grooming during those years brought with it terrible problems. When the northern Labour MP Ann Cryer took up the issue of the rape of underage girls in her own constituency, she was swiftly and widely denounced as an ‘Islamophobe’ and a ‘racist’, and at one stage had to receive police protection. It took years for central government, the police, local authorities or the Crown Prosecution Service to face up to the issue. When they finally began to do so, an official inquiry into abuse in the town of Rotherham alone revealed the exploitation of at least 1,400 children over the period 1997–2014. The victims were all non-Muslim white girls from the local community, with the youngest victim aged 11. All had been brutally raped, some had also been doused in petrol and threatened with being set on fire. Others were threatened with guns and forced to watch the violent rape of other girls as a warning should they tell anyone about the abuse. The inquiry into the abuse found that although the perpetrators were almost all men of Pakistani origin, operating in gangs, staff of the local council described their ‘nervousness about identifying the ethnic origins of perpetrators for fear of being thought as racist; others remembered clear direction from their managers not to do so.’ The local police were also found to have failed to act for fear of accusations of ‘racism’ and of what this might do to community relations.20
The story of Rotherham, like that of a whole series of similar cases in towns across Britain, partly emerged because a couple of journalists were determined to bring the story out. But all the time the communities from which the men came showed no willingness to confront the problem and every desire to cover it up. Even at the courts after sentencing, families of those accused claimed that the whole thing was a government stitch-up of some kind.21 When one Muslim in the north of England spoke out against the gang rape of white girls by members of his own community, he said that he received death threats from fellow Muslims in Britain for saying so.22
Everywhere the story was the same. Girls were chosen, in the words of the judges who eventually presided over the trials, because they were from a different community, were non-Muslim and were regarded as ‘easy meat’. Many of the men had brought ideas about women and especially about unaccompanied or ‘unprotected’ women with them from Pakistan and other male-dominated Muslim cultures. In the face of such attitudes towards women being expressed in the United Kingdom, every part of the British state failed to stand up for what had been British norms, including the rule of law. The kindest explanation would be that the influx of huge numbers of people from such cultures made the authorities nervous as to where to draw their own lines. But it was more than that. Every time grooming scandals occurred it transpired that the local authorities turned a blind eye for fear of causing community problems or being accused of racism. The British police remained scarred from the Macpherson Report of 1999, which had charged them with ‘institutional racism’, and feared any repeat of that accusation.
Everywhere in Western Europe the same truth came out at least equally slowly, often at almost precisely the same moment as the taboo shattered in Britain. In each country the period of silence was assisted by the refusal of the authorities to keep or break down any crime statistics based on ethnicity or religion. In 2009 police in Norway revealed that immigrants from non-Western backgrounds were responsible for ‘all reported rapes’ in Oslo.23 In 2011 the Norwegian state’s statistical bureau was willing to note that ‘immigrants are overrepresented in the crime statistics’. They did, however, also suggest that this was not due to any cultural differences, but rather perhaps to the predominance of young men among the immigrant populations. One former head of the violent crime section of the Oslo Police Department, Hanne Kristin Rohde, testified to the extraordinary unwillingness of the Norwegian authorities to admit to what was happening. In relation to the ‘clear statistical connection’ between rapes and migrants who came from cultures where ‘women have no value of their own’, she said that ‘This was a big problem but it was difficult to talk about it.’ As for the rapists’ attitudes towards women, ‘It is a cultural problem,’ said Rohde.24
In the weeks that followed, rapes were recorded in refugee shelters across Bavaria. And as in Britain a decade before, the authorities were so worried about the implications of the facts that in a number of cases they were found to have deliberately covered them up. In Detmold, where an asylum seeker raped a 13-year-old Muslim girl, the local police remained silent about the assault. An investigation by Westfalen-Blatt claimed that local police were routinely covering up sex assaults involving migrants in case it gave ammunition to criticisms of the government’s open-door policies. Nevertheless, rapes of children were recorded in numerous cities including at a facility in Bremen.
As the number of cases increased throughout 2015, the German authorities eventually could not hold back the growing number of reports of rapes against German women and boys by recent refugees. These included the rape of a 16-year-old girl in Mering, an 18-year-old girl in Hamm, a 14-year-old boy in Heilbronn and a 20-year-old woman in Karlsruhe. In a number of these cases – including the case in Karlsruhe – the police remained silent about the story until a local paper broke it. Countless other assaults and rapes were reported in Dresden, Reisbach, Bad Kreuznach, Ansbach, Hanau, Dortmund, Kassel, Hanover, Siegen, Rinteln, Mönchengladbach, Chemnitz, Stuttgart and other cities across the country.
Eventually, this unmentionable subject became so bad that in September 2015 officials in Bavaria began to warn local parents to ensure their daughters did not wear any revealing clothing in public. ‘Revealing tops or blouses, short shorts or miniskirts could lead to misunderstandings’, one letter to locals warned. In some Bavarian towns, including Mering, police warned parents not to allow their children to go outside alone. Local women were advised not to walk to the railway station unaccompanied. On a daily basis from 2015 onwards there were reports of rapes on German streets, in communal buildings, public swimming baths and many other locations. Similar events were reported in Austria, Sweden and elsewhere. But everywhere the subject of rape remained underground, covered up by the authorities and deemed by most of the European media not to be a respectable news story.
Unusually, in December 2015 The New York Times reported on the classes that Norway was offering migrants who volunteered to learn about how to treat women. These lessons were aimed at countering Norway’s increasing rape problem by explaining to refugees that, for instance, if a woman smiled at them or dressed in a way that revealed some flesh, this did not mean they could rape her. These lessons to people who (in the words of one of the organisers) had never seen a woman in a miniskirt before, but only in a burka, confused some of them. One 33-year-old asylum seeker explained, ‘Men have weaknesses and when they see someone smiling it is difficult to control.’ In his own country of Eritrea, he said, ‘if someone wants a lady he can just take her and he will not be punished’.2 This clash of sexual cultures had been simmering across Europe for years, but it was an indelicate, noxious subject for the mainstream to discuss. Only on the last day of 2015 did it break out on such a large scale that it could no longer be ignored.
But even the events in Cologne on New Year’s Eve 2015 leaked out slowly. To begin with, the mainstream media did not report the events, and only after several days and thanks to the blogosphere did the continent, let alone the rest of the world, learn what had gone on. On one of the busiest nights of the year, as the city was celebrating, crowds of up to 2,000 men sexually assaulted and robbed something in the region of 1,200 women in the main square outside the central railway station and cathedral of Cologne and in the adjoining streets. Soon it transpired that similar assaults had occurred in other German cities, from Hamburg in the north all the way to Stuttgart in the south. In the days after the attacks, as the scale and seriousness of the events sunk in, the police in Cologne and elsewhere strenuously attempted to conceal the identities of the culprits. Only when video and photographic evidence from the scenes were shared on social media and confirmed in the mass media did the police admit that the suspects were all of North African and Middle Eastern appearance. In Germany in 2016 as in Britain in the early 2000s, a fear of the consequences of identifying the racial origins of the assailants took priority over the police force’s commitment to doing their job.
It was all part of a pattern that would be ongoing and seemingly interminable. Throughout 2016 the spate of rapes and sexual assaults spread to every single one of Germany’s sixteen federal states. There were attacks literally every day, with most of the perpetrators never found. According to the German Minister of Justice, Heiko Maas, just a tenth of rapes in Germany are reported and of those that reach trial only 8 per cent result in a conviction. Moreover, several additional problems emerged from these cases, not least that there appeared to be a concerted official effort to suppress data about crimes where the suspects might be migrants. It was, as Die Welt finally admitted, a ‘Germany-wide phenomenon’.3 Just as in Britain a decade earlier, it transpired that German ‘anti-racism’ groups had been involved. In this case they had pressured the German police to remove racial identifiers from all suspect appeals for risk of ‘stigmatising’ whole groups of people.
In the summer of 2014 the ‘We Are Stockholm’ music festival took place as normal. Except that at the event dozens of girls as young as 14 were surrounded by gangs of immigrants, particularly from Afghanistan, molested and raped. Local police covered up the case, making no mention of it in their report on the five-day festival. There were no convictions and the press avoided any mention of the rapes. Similar organised rapes by migrant gangs occurred at music festivals in 2015 in Stockholm and Malmö among other cities. The figures were extraordinary. Whereas in 1975 there were 421 rapes reported to the Swedish police, by 2014 the annual number of rapes reported had risen to 6,620.5 By 2015 Sweden had the highest level of rapes per capita of any country in the world after Lesotho. When the Swedish press did report these events they wilfully misreported them. For instance, after the gang rape of a girl on a ferry from Stockholm to Abo, Finland, it was reported that the culprits were ‘Swedish men’ when they were in fact Somalis. It was the same story as in all of the neighbouring countries. Research published in Denmark in 2016 showed that Somali men were around twenty-six times more likely to commit rape than Danish men, adjusted for age.6 And yet in Sweden as everywhere else this subject remained unbroachable.
It took the 2015 New Year’s Eve attacks in Cologne and the scandal of that cover-up to be unearthed for the Swedish media to even report on what had happened for years at Swedish music festivals and other events. Not only was a cover-up by the police finally exposed, but the cover-up by the Swedish press was revealed as well, thanks to the work of a number of web magazines and blogs. All of this was happening against a background of daily new arrivals, even in 2014, which meant that in August of that year the Prime Minister admitted that with asylum seekers coming into the country at such a rate, ‘We will not be able to afford much else.’ ‘But,’ said Reinfeldt, refusing to change his government’s policy, ‘it’s really people fleeing for their lives.’ That Christmas Eve the then ex-PM gave a television interview in which he said that the Swedish people themselves are ‘uninteresting’, that borders are ‘fictional’ constructs, and that Sweden belongs to the people who have come to make a better life there rather than to the people who have lived there for generations.