Bus passengers ‘divided according to skin colour’

A driver allegedly made "Swedes" and "foreign-looking" people travel on separate buses between Stockholm and the Eckerölinjen ferry terminal in Grisslehamn.

Bus passengers 'divided according to skin colour'

The divisions reportedly happened on several occasions on Wednesday and Thursday at Stockholm’s City terminal (Cityterminalen), reported newspaper Dagens Nyheter (DN) on Saturday.

The bus passengers were travelling to catch the ferry to the Finnish archipelago island of Åland.

“It was a very unpleasant experience…It felt like we were on our way to Arlanda Airport to be deported from Sweden,” one of the passengers, Samer Chatila, told DN.

Chatila, who was born in Sweden, is currently studying mechanical engineering on Åland. He was travelling there with his brother Ahmad and a friend when the three noticed that the bus driver appeared to be dividing passengers based on their looks.

The driver stood between the exit and the bus and pointed the three to one of the buses, following them to make sure they got on board.

At first they thought the driver was being friendly, but they soon began to suspect that something else was going on.

They noticed that all “Swedish-looking” passengers were being directed to a different bus, while everyone who boarded their bus was foreign-looking or dark-skinned.

“We felt insulted, offended and discriminated against,” said Chatila.

“I never thought this could happen in our Sweden.”

When they challenged the driver, they were told that if they did not like the system they could get off the bus.

The driver claimed that the bus that the three friends were on was a direct route for passengers who had booked their trip in advance, while the other bus would make several stops to pick up more passengers.

But the driver did not check their tickets, Samer and Ahmad had not pre-booked, and both buses stopped to pick up passengers.

The Stockholm-Grisslehamn bus route is operated by People Travel Group on behalf of Eckerölinjen.

The company received several complaints and on Thursday evening, the director, Tomas Karlsson, learned of the alleged incidents.

“I immediately contacted the head of operations at People Travel Group who took the driver off the route,” Karlsson said.

“It seems like this was a single driver’s decision and it only happened twice, but that is bad enough.”

In response, the company is introducing new training for staff starting on Monday, when the driver is expected to appear in front of the company board to explain his actions.

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Black Lives Matter wins Swedish rights prize

The international civil rights movement Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation on Friday won Sweden's Olof Palme human rights prize for 2020.

Black Lives Matter wins Swedish rights prize
A Black Lives Matter protest in Malmö, June 2020. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

The foundation was honoured for its work promoting “peaceful civil disobedience against police brutality and racial violence all over the world,” prize organisers said in a statement.

The Black Lives Matter movement, founded in 2013 in the United States, has “in a unique way exposed the hardship, pain, and wrath of the African-American minority at not being valued equal to people of a different colour,” the statement said.

The movement had its major international breakthrough in the summer of 2020 following several cases of extreme brutality in the US, including the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

READ MORE: INTERVIEW: Sweden's anti-racism protests aren't just about what's happening in other countries

Prize organisers noted that an estimated 20 million people have taken part in Black Lives Matter protests in the US alone, and millions more around the world.

“This illustrates that racism and racist violence is not just a problem in American society, but a global problem.”

The Olof Palme Prize is an annual prize worth $100,000 awarded by the Olof Palme Memorial Fund.

It commemorates the memory of Sweden's Social Democratic prime minister Olof Palme, an outspoken international human rights advocate — and vehement opponent of US involvement in the Vietnam War — who was assassinated in Stockholm in 1986.

Since 1987 the award has honoured human rights defenders around the world including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg.

An online prize ceremony will take place in Stockholm on Saturday.