A King's College London lecturer has said sorry for any offence caused after he said US president Donald Trump's travel ban "makes sense in human capital terms".
Adam Perkins, a neurobiology lecturer, said he "would like to apologise wholeheartedly", having tweeted last Sunday that people from the seven Muslim-majority countries affected "tend to be over-represented in crime & unemployment stats".
In a tweeted apology, he said he now realised "that such discussions of data need to be conducted with extra care and context".
People had replied to say that the data in his original tweet, comparing crime rates among different nationals in Finland and Norway, did not show how people behaved in the US, and that human capital – the skills and knowledge of an individual or group of people – varied greatly among immigrant groups from country to country.
But Perkins initially doubled down, saying Somalis "don't perform well either side of the Atlantic".
In response, the KCL Somali Society created a petition demanding an apology.
"We are sad to write that in an already polarised climate following political sensations such as Brexit and the Trump Muslim Ban [sic], shameful bigotry and stigmatisation of minority groups exist in our own community at King's," the petition read.
One student who wished to remain anonymous told BuzzFeed News that Perkins had taken a "huge swipe at the Somali community".
"It was just shocking how a lecturer at my university could direct such hate at his students in a time like this," he said.
A spokesperson for the Somali Society had said they wanted a disclaimer on Perkins' Twitter profile stating that all views he expresses belong to himself rather than the university – something that appeared on his page by Friday.
However, demands for the offending tweets to be removed were not met.
In 2016, Perkins published a book entitled The Welfare Trait, where he claimed that people who were unemployed "breed" children that have traits causing joblessness.
He was due to speak at the London School of Economics last year, but following protests the lecture was cancelled.
Jonathan Portes, professor of economics and public policy at KCL, said Perkins "continues to get his statistics wrong".
Portes told BuzzFeed News: "Of course, trying to justify excluding certain ethnic groups on the grounds that they are in some way more likely to be unemployable or criminals is nothing new – much the same was said about Jews moving to the UK in the early 19th century.
"Overall, migrants to the US from countries banned by Trump have at least as high levels of human capital as US citizens. Of course, that's not the main reason Trump's ban is wrong, but as [political economist] Philippe Legrain shows, given sensible policies, refugees are an economic opportunity for the US – and Europe."
Dr Carlos Vargas Silva, senior researcher at the University of Oxford, criticised Perkins' use of the study, saying: "The point of allowing people to travel to a country to claim asylum is not to boost the receiving country’s human capital, but rather to ensure that people fleeing from persecution are protected."
He added: "In failed states such as Somalia, where government has collapsed, or war-torn countries such as Iraq or Syria, the opportunities for people to develop skills that would allow them to easily join the labour market in a refugee receiving country can be very limited. Receiving countries (such as the UK) can also impose restrictions on the labour market opportunities for asylum-seekers and their access to welfare or other income-generating opportunities.
"Evidence suggests that economic factors are the key drivers of crime, rather than country of birth – the use of which, in this context, oversimplifies a complex and polarising issue."
In a statement, King's College London said: "King’s is aware of recent posts on social media by Dr Adam Perkins which have offended some members of our community. We value and uphold the principle of academic freedom, however we are equally committed to welcoming a diverse and inclusive staff and student population. The executive dean of institute of psychiatry, psychology & neuroscience has spoken to Dr Perkins who has apologised wholeheartedly for any offence caused."
Last year, before he became president, Trump was criticised after suggesting that Somali immigration into Maine was responsible for an increase in crime there. A local police chief said there was no correlation and that if anything, the opposite was true.
Ikran is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Ikran Dahir at email@example.com.
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