Human Rights

"Sweden Needs Roma Truth Commission"

It's been three years in the making, but on Friday a government appointed investigation into the rights of the Roma people living here in Sweden was handed over to the Swedish government.

Its remit was to look at how the Roma are treated in Sweden today, and to suggest ways on how to make sure the national minority gets equal rights to ethnic Swedes.

Maria Leissner, a former head of the Liberal Party, and the woman put in charge of the study, says this country should start a truth commission, to look into how the Roma have been discriminated in the past. Only by doing this can Sweden move forward, and be a role model for other countries around the world, she says.

The investigation found an extreme and widespread exclusion of Roma from all parts of the Swedish society. A situation which is unsustainable on a human and economic basis, it says. To counter this, the investigation suggests giving Sweden's discrimination Ombudsman the job of starting a campaign to make the Roma aware of their rights in society, there should be a young leaders' academy for young Roma, and the government should also start a Roma Culture Council, it says.

Maria Leissner claims that up to 80% of Roma are unemployed in Sweden today, with many Roma excluded from the education system, and not even getting basic high school qualifications. The cost to society, through benefits and lost tax income, is around 1.7 billion dollars annually.

Swedish equality minister, Nyamko Sabuni, who received the report on behalf of the government, says the government is aware of the Roma's situation and that more needs to be done.

"The situation for Roma in Sweden is unsustainable and we have started a programme to strengthen the rights of Sweden's national minorities", Sabuni told Swedish Radio news, "but we do have to do more to help the Roma, and I'm very happy to have received this investigation".

Together with her cabinet collegue, EU minister Birgitta Olsson, Sabuni sent a letter to the European Commission Friday, asking the commission to start a binding action plan for all EU member states, specifying how they should ensure Romas have access to the housing and employment markets. "I'm worried that some EU countries treat their Roma citizens so bad that they they have to leave and move to other countries in the EU", she said.