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Green party proposes state loans for immigrant businesses

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16:23 CET+01:00
Immigrants wanting to start a business should be given state-backed loans, according to the Green Party, which believes that it would help fight discrimination against foreign entrepreneurs. They will bring the idea to the table during this spring's budget negotiations.

According to the Green Party, those with non-Swedish ethnicities face "plain and simple discrimination". They are more often denied bank loans or receive less favourable conditions than their Swedish counterparts.

"An immigrant-owned company will face greater challenges securing a loan to start an IT company, even if it's exactly the same business idea a Swede has," claimed Yvonne Ruwaida, a member of the government's appropriations committee.

Ruwaida isn't convinced that raising awareness and supplying additional training to loan officers is enough to tackle the problem.

"[Immigrants] don't always fit in. They don't know the right people and their business idea might seem odd. But I believe that many of these unconventional ideas are a part of our future economy," she said.

The Greens also believe that state-backed loans would result in more jobs in poorer socio-economic neighbourhoods.

"We need more companies, and this offers enormous potential," said Ruwaida.

A disproportionate number of new businesses in Sweden are started by immigrants. That may partly be explained by a new report from The Swedish Confederation of Professional Employees (TCO) which shows that immigrants earn on average 12% less than Swedes for doing the same job. Among civil engineers the gap is 9,000 kronor per month.

"Highly educated people who come here as adults pay a high price in the form of a lower salary when they enter the job market," said Ulf Andréasson at TCO. "Employers see an opportunity to buy well-trained labour at a cheap rate."

Meanwhile, a university publication, Equality Before the Law, has asserted that immigrants are more often arrested, indicted, and convicted. In court they receive more severe sentences and they get harsher treatment in prison than their Swedish-born peers.

The report is based on several thousand cases pored over by researchers.

While Göteborgs Posten noted that the foundations of the publication are not statistically flawless, Christian Diesen, a professor in judicial practice and co-author, maintained that the pattern is clear nonetheless.

Sweden's chief justice, Johan Hirschfeldt, underscored the need for "sensitivity awareness training" to address unconscious prejudice.

"These are issues under observation over the past few years which have been followed up through in-house training of our justices," Hirschfeldt told TT.

Some of those under attack defended themselves. Chief Prosecutor Sven-Erik Alhem, responsible for human rights issues and hate crimes said, "If there are grounds for this then it's very serious. However, I believe attitudes have greatly improved the past few years."

The Chief Police Commissioner, Stefan Strömberg, is also sceptical about the report's conclusions.

Strömberg told TT, "I think the argument is rather sweeping. The question is considerably more complex."

He admitted that there are some hostile attitudes towards immigrants among the police ranks even if they are "more the exception than the rule".

Sources: Dagens Nyheter, Svenska Dagbladet, Expressen, Aftonbladet, Göteborgs Posten, TT

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