Wednesday

4th May 2016

Focus

Sweden examines its treatment of Roma

  • (Photo: Julie70)

A White Paper on the abuses suffered by Roma people in Sweden during the 1900s will be followed up by a commission on ongoing anti-gypsyism, the Swedish government decided on Wednesday (26 March).

“This is a dark and shameful part of Swedish history," integration minister Erik Ullenhag said when presenting the paper.

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The compilation of witness statements and research on the discrimination of Roma in Sweden in the last century details persecution both by the authorities as well as by individuals.

Before the 1960s, most Swedish municipalities refused Roma the right of residence. This confined them to a nomad life where they also lost the right to schooling for their children, healthcare, any welfare benefits and a state pension.

Soraya Post, running for a seat in the European Parliament for the Feminist Party, witnessed how her mother, as one of many Roma, was forced to have an abortion.

Many other Roma were sterilised by the authorities who declared them to be a “sub-standard” race.

That the discrimination is not a phenomenon of the past was demonstrated the very morning of the presentation.

One of the biggest hotels in Stockholm refused to allow Diana Nyman, who was attending Ullenhag’s presentation, to take her breakfast with the other hotel guests. She was dressed in traditional Roma clothing.

The newly-appointed government commission on Roma will look into ongoing discrimination against the ethnic minority in Sweden.

Five out of nine commission delegates are themselves Roma. It will be headed by Thomas Hammarberg, former human rights commissioner at the Council of Europe.

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