Sweden takes steps to document the maltreatment of Roma
This follows the recommendation last year by a government-appointed panel on issues related to Roma that a truth commission was needed in order to investigate the persecution this group has faced. In addition, the panel stated that an account of the history of the Roma was necessary.
Roma have been in Sweden since the early 16th century, with around 50,000 living there today. Throughout history they have encountered discrimination but the white paper will concentrate primarily on their plight in the 1900s. It will use testimonies of Roma to record human rights abuses, including acts of genocide during World War II, forced sterilisation and lack of voting rights amongst other things.
Integration Minister Erik Ullenhag has said that in order to move on from these aspects of their past, Sweden had to recognise that it had ‘wronged the Roma.’
The Hindu and Jewish communities have applauded such an effort by the Swedish Government, with prominent Hindu statesman Rajan Zed and Rabbi Jonathan B. Freirich believing that this is ‘a step in the right direction’ that other European countries should follow.
Zed and Freirich though have both stressed the need for better integration of Roma into mainstream society. According to the Swedish Government’s Human Rights Website, Roma have a ‘highly vulnerable position’ in Sweden, with many facing problems in the areas of health care, education, housing and employment.
They have also called for damages to be rewarded to Swedish Roma for their past suffering but Ullenhag has stated that no such compensation will be given.
The idea of such a report seems to have generally been well-received but some have not responded so positively. Rosita Grönfors, chairwoman of the International Roma and Travelling Women Forum (IRKF) believes that focusing on the past is not the way forward and that instead, the government should ‘care about the Roma who are discriminated against now.’
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