The “Swedish Model”

Håkan Dahlström via Flickr

Håkan Dahlström via Flickr

Sweden is often seen as a beacon of tolerant social democracy and ethical capitalism. If you ask the Roma though, you might get a different story. Recently, the Swedish goverment released a white paper on the historical and modern discrimination against the Roma. Its indictments are damning. According to Swedish Integration Minister Erik Ullenhag:

“When the country’s police at the beginning of the 1900s described Roma and travellers the answers were clear… Ugly’, ‘unreliable’, ‘and ‘good-for-nothings’ were common views.”

That perception laid the foundation for an attitude that the Roma contributed nothing and should be “annihilated”.

This follows on the heels of summer revelations that Swedish police were amassing an illegal registry of Roma citizens and asylum seekers. By the time it was discovered, there were already over 1000 people on its lists, which included fingerprints, names, descriptions and a family tree. None of these individuals were convicted of any crime. Police discrimination, clearly, is still a problem. Meanwhile, the far-right Sweden Democrats continue to gain in popularity.

Most recently, Diana Nyman, a Swedish Roma woman and community activist invited by the government to speak on the release of the white paper on discrimination was refused breakfast service at a four-star hotel. She was a guest there. Dressing traditionally, she attempted to eat her paid-for meal in the dining room and was “almost knocked over” by a staff member eager to deny her access to the room full of white Swedes.

Racism. It’s a problem everywhere.