"A dark period in Swedish history"

4:02 min

A report recounting the abuses, violations and other acts of discrimination against Sweden's Roma people in the 20th century was presented by the government today.    

Integration Minister Erik Ullenhag presented the government white paper in the form of a book, and said: "We will not solve all the problems of discrimination and exclusion of Roma and Travellers with a white paper, but it is an important piece of the puzzle to go forward. It is also an important recognition for those who have been telling stories which have not been believed".

"Something that I myself was amazed by, from working with the white paper, is that we have so little knowledge about this part of history. Hopefully the white paper will contribute to a deeper debate and more research into this dark part of Sweden's history.

"Throughout the 1900s, Roma and Travellers were consistently treated as second-class people. Like a red thread through both public authorities and citizens' attitudes towards the Roma and travellers, we see prejudice, discrimination, and during much of the 1900s pure racial prejudice," Erik Ullenhag said.

In January 2011, the integration minister announced that work would begin within Government Offices to draw up a white paper (vitbok) which would give a comprehensive overview on injustices towards the Roma in Sweden during the twentieth century, using testimony and interviews. The white paper, he said, would be a part of a larger effort in fighting discrimination against Sweden's Roma population.

"This is an historic event and a big thing which is being presented. We really hope that this comes out and shows all the injustices that have happened during this 100-year period in Sweden," says Stefano Kuzhicov, who is president of the National Association Roma in Europe, and served on a Roma peer group which helped draw up the government report.

Stefano Kuzhicov believes that people will react strongly to the personal stories contained in the government's white paper."I think it will be a big shock. It will be a big surprise. What has happened shows how the authorities have acted and how Roma have been treated throughout history here in Sweden."

The president of the National Association Roma in Europe tells Radio Romano that the paper is more about enlightenment and education. "This paper will be used for training purposes, to show what really happened. And used in the meeting with authorities and administrators, and especially the police, to really educate them on Roma issues and for this not to happen again."

In a speech at the 4th International Roma Conference in Finland in 2013, integration minister Erik Ullenhag spoke of discrimination of Roma throughout Europe.

"When it comes to Roma, the history of Europe has been dark. Very dark. Roma have been kept as slaves. During the Second World War, thousands of Roma were murdered by the Nazis in what has been called the 'forgotten Holocaust'.

"Sweden, too, where Roma have lived for more than 500 years, has much to be ashamed of. During the seventeenth century, there were decrees ordering the execution of Roma men. Women and children were banished from the country.  All through history, Roma have been denied the right to go to school, to vote or to settle where they wanted. And Swedish authorities have even carried out forced sterilisation of Roma." 

Earlier this year, hundreds of Roma turned to the Security and Integrity Board (SIN) with compensation claims in the belief that their names were included in the highly controversial secret database of Roma kept by the police in Skåne.

Last autumn, newspaper Dagens Nyheter revealed reports about Skåne police's secret database which contained names of thousands of Roma in Sweden.