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'Sweden must do more to combat racism'

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16:23 CEST+02:00
Although much has improved in Sweden, there is still a lot to be done to combat racism and xenophobia, according to a new report from human rights organization the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI).

"ECRI welcomes the positive developments in Sweden. However, despite the progress made, there are still some points of concern," the authors wrote.

The report, authored by a human rights body within the Council of Europe, calls for more measures to combat housing segregation as well as discrimination in schools, health care and the legal system.

Since the commission's third report in 2005, much ground has been gained in a number of the areas on which the ECRI focuses. However, the report states that there is much more that should be done.

Much more could be done to promote positive action in Sweden, something that is not currently viewed as “generally acceptable”, according to the report.

The report also identifies obstacles in the Swedish legal system in bringing cases to court involving agitation against a national or ethnic group committed through the media.

The fact that only a small proportion of incidents reported result in prosecution or sentencing also increases victims' tendency not to report offences, according to the report.

“This may help to perpetuate racism and racial discrimination,” the ECRI concluded.

The authors of the report recognized that xenophobic and Islamophobic parties have gained ground in Sweden over the past few years.

“Anti-Muslim political discourse has become more widespread and the tone has hardened. Online racism has continued to grow exponentially,” the report stated.

The report also described how residential segregation still exists in Sweden:

“Its effects are compounded by discrimination in the housing market that particularly affects Roma, Muslims, Afro-Swedes and asylum seekers.”

This will also lead to educational inequality due to a widening gap in education between institutions and a different experience for students from vulnerable groups at school:

“Pupils with an immigrant background still perform less well at school than those without and are sometimes victims of racist bullying and harassment, which are not always correctly handled by school principals.”

According to the report, discrimination also persists on the labour market, affecting not only new entrants but also immigrants who have been settled in Sweden for a number of years.

The Roma people continue to be victims of discrimination, according the report, as are the indigenous Sami, who face problems with participation in decisions affecting them and that would threaten their traditional way of life.

Rebecca Martin

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