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Police register, question Roma beggars

Updated onsdag 16 december 2015 kl 15.17
Published onsdag 16 december 2015 kl 10.30
"An investigation based on ethnicity"
(3:45 min)
A begger outside a store. Photo: David Westh / Swedish Radio.
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A begger outside a store. Photo: David Westh / Swedish Radio.
Photos: Christer Suneson, SR / My Vingren, SR
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Poice have been encouraged to take pictures of beggars' ID documents and ask beggars many, detailed questions. Photos: Christer Suneson, SR / My Vingren, SR

Swedish Radio News revealed on Wednesday that for nearly a year, police have been keeping a registry of Roma beggars in Sweden, and now the Swedish Commission on Security and Integrity Protection will be looking into the issue.

In 2013, the newspaper Dagens Nyheter revealed that police had kept a registry of more than 4,500 Roma, and after harsh criticism from the Parliamentary Ombudsman, the Chancellor of Justice awarded damages to everyone who had been listed in the registry.

With regards to the new registry, police insist that they have authorization for it, but they have not wanted to make that decision available or say what is being registered, but Swedish Radio News has seen an instruction issued to police throughout the country, encouraging them to photograph identification documents of beggars with whom they come into contact and question them about, for example, their income, and whether they are forced to beg or are paying to occupy their spot.

Several police regions in the country have sent the information along to a central intelligence service, where it has been logged in a registry.

However, according to the police's head of press, Fredrik Wallén, this issue is not about a registry, but rather it concerns the collection of information, which is part of a larger effort aimed at identifying victims of suspected human trafficking.

"If we have interviewed people, there has always been legal grounds for it - like in situations where we have reason to check people, for example, if there's a suspicion that someone is the victim of crime. It's not that we are running around and interviewing people," said Wallén.

According to Linda Staaf, the chief of the national intelligence service, information that has come in has been important in order to be able to get a picture of the situation about possible trafficking connected to begging.

"If we, within the police, see that there is a vulnerable person that we suspect can fare badly, we need to pose questions about care. Because if we don't pose questions and care about the individual, who will do it?" she said.

The debater Hans Caldaras, himself a Swedish Roma, however, says that the whole thing is an excuse to "get them out of the country".

"Once again, this is an investigation based on ethnicity. People want to go out and say that they're doing it for humanitarian reasons, but when people make such a registry, it smells exactly like when they used the same methods and have the same ulterior motives as the Skåne police," Caldaras accused, referring to the previous Roma registry by police in southern Sweden.

Sigurd Heuman, chair of the Swedish Commission on Security and Integrity Protection told Swedish Radio News that the commission will now be leading an investigation to find out whether what the police have been doing is legal.

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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