The law recognizes Sami (formerly known as Lapps), Swedish Finns, Tornedalers, Roma, and Jews as national minorities. The law permits and the government supports minority languages. The discrimination ombudsman received 514 complaints regarding ethnic discrimination in 2012 compared with 594 in 2011. Of the complaints, 507 related to the labor market.
Societal discrimination and violence against Arab and Somali immigrants and Roma continued to be a problem during the year.
Police registered reports of xenophobic crimes, some of which related to neo-Nazi or white-power ideology. Police investigated and the district attorney’s office prosecuted race-related crimes. Official estimates placed the number of active neo-Nazis and white supremacists at 1,500. Neo-Nazi groups operated legally, but courts have held that it is illegal to wear xenophobic symbols or racist paraphernalia or to display signs and banners with inflammatory symbols at rallies, since the law prohibits incitement of hatred against ethnic groups.
The government estimated the Romani population at 50,000. In 2010 a special commission reported that a majority of Roma lived as outcasts: The unemployment rate among Roma was 80 percent, elementary education for Romani children was rare, and a Rom’s life expectancy was significantly lower that the country’s average. In 2012 authorities identified 215 hate crimes directed against Roma.
On September 21, the media reported that the Skane County police had compiled a dedicated database on approximately 4,000 Roma in the country. The ethno-centric database tracked family ties between individuals and appeared to violate the law, the European Convention on Human Rights, and the European Charter of Fundamental Rights. The police involved claimed the database had nothing to do with ethnicity, but that it mapped criminal activity moving across county borders. That many Roma with no criminal records ended up in the registry was due to the mapping of the criminals’ contact network, which is legal according to the police. No ethnic markers were in the registry. Police said a large part of the database covered four different clans. On November 15, the Commission on Security and Integrity Protection (SIN), an authority that supervises the use by crime-fighting agencies of secret surveillance, qualified assumed identities, and associated activities, determined that the registry had “several illegal aspects,” even if the database did not have ethnic markers. The SIN also concluded there had been no need to add all the names in the database, which Skane County police said was originally put together to keep tabs on Roma. The SIN review looked into a random selection of 1,235 of the 3,413 names on the list who were not children of deceased and found that the original intention was to map social and family networks around persons suspected of crime. The dominance of Romani names could “give the impression” that its sole focus was ethnicity. Two police officers were under investigation for malpractice; penalties range from a warning to up to two years in prison.
In 2011 the government announced a 46-million-kronor ($7.1 million) supplement to the 2012 budget aimed at improving the situation of Roma over a four-year period. In 2011 the government announced a new 20-year strategy for Romani inclusion, which included a series of proposed measures to improve the condition of Roma in six focus areas: education, work, housing, health and social care, culture and language, and civil society. The overall goal of the strategy was to equalize the opportunities available to young Roma and non-Roma by 2032.
The discrimination ombudsman handled three mediation and court cases involving Roma after Swedish Radio News reported several instances when Roma tried to rent cars at various gas stations and were told there were no cars available. When the radio reporter asked the same question a little later, cars were available. The most common complaint was against landlords who refused to rent apartments to Roma. Conciliation with financial compensation to the Roma was the most common outcome.