Roma refused rentals by Swedish garages: report

Roma refused rentals by Swedish garages: report
One out of three petrol stations in Sweden refused to rent cars to people dressed in traditional Roma clothing in a test carried out by a Swedish broadcaster, a practice one former employee attributed to "deep-rooted xenophobia".

For the test, Sveriges Radio (SR) asked people dressed in traditional Roma clothing to attempt to rent cars from 65 petrol stations across the country, including stations operated by Statoil, OKQ8, and Preem.

On 22 occasions, the Roma-dressed customers were told that the stations had no cars available. But when a reporter from SR came to the same stations 30 minutes later, there were no problems renting a vehicle.

“It’s very insulting and it’s really unbelievable that people can look you in the eye and lie to your face,” Pirjo Lindström, a Finnish Roma who helped carry out the test, told SR

Christian Wallén, a former employee at several Statoil petrol stations, told SR that discriminatory practices are standard procedure at the stations.

“There was a directive to employees to behave in this way,” he told the broadcaster, theorizing that the practice stemmed from a “deep-rooted xenophobia”.

While Wallén admitted he knew of incidents involving Roma customers, the problems didn’t warrant intentional discrimination.

“Of course there were incidents, but that happened with Swedish customers too, so in that way, I don’t think it’s justified,” he said.

Ola Enquist, head of Statoil’s full-service stations in Sweden, reacted strongly to the report that stations under his management systematically discriminated against Roma.

“If it’s true that it’s like this, that’s very serious; that’s against our policy; that’s not how we work,” he told SR.

TT/The Local/dl

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