Report faults Sweden for discrimination

Swedish minorities face widespread discrimination including a lack of education in their mother tongues, Sweden's ombudsman against ethnic discrimination said on Friday.

Report faults Sweden for discrimination

“There are still discriminatory structures that affect minorities’ possibilities to have their rights respected,” the body, DO, said in a report.

Many Jews, Roma and Swedish-Finns, as well as Samis, an indigenous people spread across northern Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia, and Tornedalians, who are originally of Finnish descent, “lose their languages,” the report said.

Many never had a chance to learn their own language, it said, adding that some of the minority languages were threatened with extinction.

Up until the 1970s, Sweden discriminated against many of its national minorities, including forced sterilizations and the barring of some minority languages from schools and workplaces.

Since 2000, DO said it had received around 200 reports of discrimination from national minorities in Sweden, including a number of claims from Roma that they had been denied access to public places and housing.

There were also numerous complaints from Samis that their language rights were not being respected.

“The situation is very serious,” acting ombudsman Anna Theodora Gunnarsdottir told Sveriges Radio

Minorities “experience degrading comments… and it can be difficult for them to receive the education they are entitled to in their mother tongues. Compared to a Swedish child’s access to education in his or her language, it is obvious there is discrimination,” she said.

The report added: “Discriminatory structures in schools affect children’s school results and thereby have consequences for their possibilities to advance to higher education, which in turn affects their possibilities on the job market.”


Swedish museum to return Sami remains to village

Uppsala's university museum is to return a Sami skeleton to ethnic Sami living in Arctic Lapland, following a campaign by the Sami parliament, Amnesty, and the Bishop of Luleå.

Swedish museum to return Sami remains to village

The skeleton came from a Sami from the village of Arjeplog in Sweden’s northernmost Norrbotten county, who was serving a life sentence at Stockholm’s Långholmen prison when he died. The skeleton had been on display at Gustavianum, Uppsala University’s Museum. 

“The government has today decided that Uppsala University should be able to return human remains, in the form of a mounted skeleton, to the Arjeplog Sami association,” the government said in a press release.

“The university’s request has been prompted by a request from the Arjeplog Sami association requesting the repatriation of the remains. Uppsala University has determined that Arjeplog’s Sami association has a legitimate claim on the remains and that the association will be able to ensure a dignified reception.” 

Sweden’s universities and museums have been gradually returning the Sami remains and artefacts collected in the 19th and early 20th century when research institutes such as Uppsala’s State Institute for Race Biology, sought to place Sami below ethnic Swedes through studying eugenics and human genetics. 

Lund University returned Sami remains earlier this year, and in 2019, the remains of more than 25 individuals were returned by Västerbotten Museum to Gammplatsen, an old Sami meeting place on the Umeå River in southern Lapland. 

Mikael Ahlund, chief of the Uppsala University Museum, said that the skeleton was one of “about 20 to 25” that the museum had been given responsibility for in about 2010, when the university’s medical faculty was clearing out its old collections, and had never been put on display. 

He said it was “a bit unclear how these remains were collected and how they were used”. 

“It’s a complex history at the end of the 19th century, with teaching anatomy. They also had a connection to the ideology of the period, the idea of races and the different anatomy of races, so that’s the dark shadow of that period.” 

In a press release last November, Margaretha Andersson, the head of Uppsala’s Museums, said that in 1892, when the man died, there was nothing strange about prisons donating the bodies of dead prisoners to university medical departments.

“In the old days, it was not unusual that the bodies from people who died in prison were passed to the university’s medical and research departments,” she said. 

Ahlund said that the museum had always been willing to return the skeleton to the Sami association, but that there had been bureaucratic hurdles to doing so. 

“What you need to know is that we are Swedish government institution, so we can’t just repatriate them as we would like ourselves, it needs to be a decision from the government, which is what happened today.” 

He said that the skeleton would be delivered to Arjeplog “as soon as possible”. “We expect it to happen early autumn, or something like that.”