The law recognizes Sami (formerly known as Lapps), Swedish Finns, Tornedalers, Roma, and Jews as national minorities. The discrimination ombudsman received 663 complaints regarding ethnic discrimination in 2015, compared with 601 in 2014.
Societal discrimination and violence against immigrants and Roma continued to be problems during the year.
Police registered reports of xenophobic crimes, some of which were linked 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.
Expo, a private foundation that researches and maps antidemocratic, right-wing extremists and racist tendencies in the country, reported increased radicalization in society. Neo-Nazi dissemination of mainly online propaganda increased, but such groups were still marginalized due to the violence of their activists.
The government estimated the Romani population at 50,000. A majority of the Roma lived as socially excluded outcasts. The unemployment rate among Roma was high, due in part to poor education and prejudices. In 2015 authorities identified 240 hate crimes directed against Roma, including several acts of violence. Perpetrators of nonviolent hate crimes usually worked in the service sector, as civil servants, or were unknown to the victim. The number of Roma, mainly from Romania, engaged in street begging increased. As EU citizens, they are allowed to stay in the country without permission for up to three months; begging is legal.
On January 26, the Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights, Nils Muiznieks, sent a letter to Culture Minister Alice Bah Kuhnke concerning the reported eviction of approximately 200 persons, mostly Romanian and Bulgarian Roma, in the Sorgenfri district of Malmo in November 2015. Muiznieks noted that the city offered emergency accommodation for five days to only approximately 50 of the persons affected. Responding to Muiznieks, the minister for children, the elderly, and gender equality, Asa Regner, confirmed the basic facts but asserted that the persons evicted occupied approximately only half of the accommodations offered by authorities.
On June 10, the Stockholm District Court ruled that the government was guilty of ethnic discrimination in a suit brought by 11 individuals (eight adults and three children) who were included in the illegal Skane County police register of the country’s Roma. The court awarded the litigants 30,000 kronor ($3,280) each, stating in its decision that, “There is strong reason to believe that inclusion in the register was solely based on their ethnicity. The state has not presented sufficient evidence to prove there were any other reasons for the registration.” The government appealed the decision.
In June the Commission against “Antiziganism” created shortly after the Skane County registration scandal presented a report to the minister for culture and democracy. The report included recommendations to offer an official apology to the country’s Roma for human rights violations of the past and to start a national center to continue to work for Romani rights.
The government continued its 20-year strategy to equalize the opportunities available to young Roma and non-Roma by 2032. The strategy included a series of measures to improve the condition of Roma in six focus areas: education, work, housing, health and social care, culture and language, and civil society. On October 7, the government announced it earmarked 58 million kronor ($6.34 million) for Roma inclusion work for 2016-19. The Agency for Youth and Civil Society Affairs and the Swedish Arts Council received new assignments to support Romani organizations both financially and in other ways. Among the actions already taken is the work of three pilot municipalities--Gothenburg, Helsingborg, and Linkoping--that have instated permanent consultation procedures when it comes to problems concerning the Romani group. The National Agency for Education has developed material for working with national minorities at the local level, and the National Board for Health and Welfare has worked with an education project for the social services. The Roma Youth Association initiated projects for Romani youth, including a student fund to help young students through school.
The Gothenburg City Museum’s exhibition, “We are Roma--Meet the People Behind the Myth” opened in Malmo in October. The exhibition examined why Roma were not accepted into society. The Forum for Living History arranged workshops and education on human rights for schoolchildren, companies, government authorities, and associations.