Nearly 5,000 Roma people to receive state compensation

2:19 min

All members of Sweden's Roma community who were registered in an illegal police database will receive state compensation - a decision that human-rights activists describe as “historic”.

The chancellor of justice determined on Wednesday that the 4,700 people registered in the controversial police database can claim a total SEK 35,000 in compensation, money that will be paid out by the National Police Authority.

The decision comes after the chancellor of justice chose not to challenge an earlier appeals court verdict.

The appeals court’s verdict in April determined that 11 people who had been registered in the police database, and then filed a lawsuit against the state, had been subjected to a severe violation and had been registered purely on the basis of their ethnicity.

The court then decided that those individuals should receive SEK 30,000 each in damages in addition to the 5,000 that the chancellor of justice had already granted. Since it is not possible to test the ethnicity question on a case-by-case basis, everyone who was registered should have the right to the same compensation, it has now been decided.

That means all of the nearly 5,000 people registered in the controversial police database can claim SEK 35,000 in compensation each, money that will be paid out by the National Police Authority.

Adam Szoppe, a journalist with Swedish Radio's Romani service, was among the thousands of Roma people registered in the database and one of the 11 who sued the state. He says he now feels relieved.

"I felt we were given justice. We don't have to go through another trial. We won."

It was back in 2013 that the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter revealed that the Skåne police in southern Sweden kept a database of nearly 5,000 individuals, including more than 1,000 children. It was not a criminal register but a database showing family connections and other ties between thousands of individuals, mainly Roma people.

The so-called Roma Register, which was known as The Travelers' Register within the Skåne police force, was deemed to be illegal by the Swedish Commission on Security and Integrity Protection. The Discrimination Ombudsman also said that the Skåne police's actions may have constituted ethnic profiling and Sweden's national police commissioner, Dan Eliasson, has previously apologised for the register.

When Adam Szoppe first found out about the database, it came as a shock, he said.

“I thought I saw my daughter’s name in the newspaper… I contacted Dagens Nyheter and after a week they called me and said 'you, your wife, and three of your four children are in the register'.”

Szoppe says Wednesday's decision will help rebuild trust in Swedish institutions.

“Many Roma people stopped believing in justice, in the police, in judges. I think this is the first step to start believing in justice in Sweden," said Szoppe.