“Local actors, such as state agencies and municipalities, need to take responsibility for seeing that Roma aren’t subject to discrimination,” ombudsman investigator Heidi Pikkarainen told the Svenska Dadbladet (SvD) newspaper.
As one of Sweden’s five national minorities, the Roma are supposed to be guaranteed the right to deal with local authorities in their own language.
Between 2004 and 2010, the ombudsman received 230 complaints alleging discrimination against Sweden’s Roma.
But prior to 2009, Swedish anti-discrimination laws didn’t encompass the way public sector employees treated members of the public, making it was impossible for the ombudsman to investigate allegations that Roma had been discriminated against in their dealings with the Swedish legal system.
According to the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention (Brottsförebyggande rådet – Brå), Sweden’s Roma faced the most difficulty in their dealings with the country’s legal system in 2008 because of prevailing views that Roma are criminals, SvD reports.
Despite the new legislation, the ombudsman continues to find it difficult to prove the Roma are discriminated against by public bodies.
Ombudsman investigator Pikkarainen believes that laws preventing discrimination in the legal system need to be reviewed and updated.
“It’s extremely serious if someone is subject to discrimination in a legal proceeding because it’s such a central part everyone’s equal rights,” she told the newspaper.
In addition to strengthening laws, Pikkarainen believes that more Roma discrimination cases need to be heard by the Swedish courts.