The Discrimination Ombudsman (Diskrimineringsombudsmannen, DO) has called on setting up a truth commission to promote awareness among the Roma of their rights, create a youth leadership academy and establish a Roma cultural committee.
“We should be ashamed of how we have dealt with the Roma and once we have begun to be ashamed, maybe we can change our behaviour,” said former Liberal Party leader and ambassador Maria Leissner. “This is an exclusion that is totally unacceptable to Sweden in 2010.”
The Roma are one of Sweden’s five national minorities and Romani Chib is one of Sweden’s national minority languages. The number of Roma living in Sweden is estimated at 40,000 to 50,000.
The delegation notes that an extreme and indefensible exclusion of Roma prevails across all parts of society. The Roma’s situation is both humanly and economically unsustainable, the delegation led by Leissner charged. According to Leissner, the Roma in Sweden live in isolation with up to 80 percent unemployment.
“A welfare gap exists in Sweden,” she said. “Many Roma lack education, are shut out of the labour market and the children do not get enough support at school. Few Roma children and young people receive secondary school qualifications and go on to college or university.”
Leissner added that the Roma find themselves in a disadvantaged position of power and there is a large credibility gap, with mistrust and a lack of confidence between the Roma and the majority of society.
“There is also an anti-Gypsyism, a racism particularly directed against Roma from individuals, institutions and structurally in society,” said Leissner.
According to the delegation, the cost of Roma exclusion, in the form of tax revenue losses and additional expenditures amounts to 12.4 billion kronor ($1.71 billion) per year. The delegation proposes measures and investments over 20 years to improve the Roma’s situation that would cost 80 million to 100 million kronor a year.
Integration Minister Sabuni believes that the Roma as a minority group are more vulnerable than other groups in Swedish society are exposed to discrimination even though it is prohibited by the law.
“The Roma are the only group in society where people can express discriminatory things against them without other people reacting,” she said.
Sabuni and EU Affairs Minister Birgitta Ohlsson sent a letter on Friday to the European Commission to call attention to the responsibility of all EU member states for the situation of the Roma.
“The commission must take the initiative for an action plan that is binding for member states under which they must write specifically how they will ensure Roma access to employment, housing and the job market,” said Sabuni.
“My concern is that a part of the EU member states treats its Roma citizens so badly that they are forced to leave their home countries and travel to other EU countries,” she added.
Many Roma encounter great difficulties in virtually all spheres of society. This applies to education, the labour market, housing and health care and to the possibility of participating in the community on the same terms as the majority population.
The number of Roma living in Sweden is estimated at 40,000 to 50,000 people. The population in Sweden is not homogenous and includes descendants of the Romani groups that arrived in Sweden in the 16th century as well as those who came to Sweden at the end of the 20th century.