Calls for preventive action against vigilante group Soldiers of Odin

‘Soldiers of Odin’, a self-styled vigilante group, is taking root in Malta but critics fear they will take law into their own hands

In Finland, Soldiers of Odin vigilantes make their message clear
In Finland, Soldiers of Odin vigilantes make their message clear

The Soldiers of Odin, a vigilante group that has been branded as “anti-immigrant”, has found a following in Malta and begun patrolling the streets, according to local media reports.

The group is part of a controversial international network with same name, which proclaims that its goal is to protect people – especially women – from migrants committing crimes.

The first Soldiers of Odin group was set up in Finland during the European migrant crisis last year, and several other groups have sprouted across Europe since.

When contacted by this newspaper, a representative for the Soldiers of Odin Malta denied having any extreme ideology. “We are not racial [sic] at all and we don’t single out immigrants, we single out criminals,” he said.

The group’s Facebook page currently has about 1,600 followers, though it is not clear how many are in fact active members. The group spokesperson told MaltaToday that the number of active members of the Soldiers of Odin is “classified information”.

The spokesperson went on to say that “sex offenders, people convicted of domestic violence or real racists” are not allowed into the group, but declined to elaborate on what criteria they used to identify racists. “We have our ways and means,” he said.

But the group stressed that they do not single out immigrants, “only criminals”.

Maltese 'Soldiers of Odin' on patrol. Photo: Facebook
Maltese 'Soldiers of Odin' on patrol. Photo: Facebook

But Dr Maria Pisani, from the University of Malta’s department of youth and community studies, said it was “clear to the casual observer” that the vigilantes’ philosophy is grounded in the notion of “protecting national – presumably white or superior – population against the ‘dark skinned invader’.”

“It is not completely clear who is even asking them to [protect the streets] however, given their reference to illegal migrants, one may presume that they are referring to Maltese citizens and all legally residing migrants, in which case the latter would of course include all refugees and beneficiaries of protection, regardless of race or ethnicity.

“And this is just one example of a confused self-righteous ideology that is grounded in racist beliefs.”

Despite the group’s assertions, the use of imagery associated with ‘crusaders’ and ‘holy war’ plus the frequent use of anti-immigrant rhetoric are clear giveaways.

The emergence of the group has been met with mixed reactions, with some viewing it as a welcome development.

“If this group informs the police about potential illegal activity then it could not be such a bad development,” said Sandro Camilleri, president of the GWU’s Police Officers Union. But nobody had the right to take the law into their own hands, he warned.

But Neil Falzon, Director of the Aditus foundation, told this newspaper that the group’s name – invoking the Norse god of death and battle – suggest they are vigilantes patrolling areas with a view to instigating or committing violence, hate crimes, bullying, harassment and similar activities.

“It’s also clear that their activities are directed against Muslims, highlighting the hate element of their activities. Maltese law does not allow these activities, and we strongly urge the Malta Police Force to immediately look into the matter.

“We would be happy to see preventive action being taken, instead of waiting for anyone to be attacked, spat at, insulted or in any way humiliated by these thugs.”

Falzon said that together with the potential for violence, Aditus was seriously concerned at the very existence of these groups.

“Decades of anti-migrant political discourse and criminalising migration policies have fuelled the concerns of many Maltese. These concerns, many of them extremely valid, need to be addressed.”