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Ferry owners dismiss one 'bus apartheid' claim

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Ferry owners dismiss one 'bus apartheid' claim
11:50 CET+01:00
One of the ferry companies accused in Sweden's "bus apartheid" storm has hit back against allegations passengers were placed on different buses according to colour of their skin.

Speaking to Aftonbladet newspaper after a morning spent in meetings, Viking Lines CEO Peter Hellgren said there was only one bus taking ferry passengers from Örebro, in central Sweden, to the terminal in Stockholm on one of the days mentioned in the claims.

"There would be no logic in us separating passengers, as everyone is getting on board the same ferry anyway," Hellgren said at noon on Monday.

Yet passenger Hassan Alizadeh stuck to his guns when Aftonbladet asked him about his trip on Decmber 21st, 2012, the date that Viking Line now says only saw one bus in operation.

A second claim of similar treatment on December 22nd, 2012 was not addressed in detail in the short web interview, yet Hellgren said his company had had confirmation from the bus company that a second bus was called in on that day.

"For people who feel they have been discriminated, we urge them to get in touch with us directly," the ferry boss said.

Hellgren added that this was the first time such claims had emerged from the more than 6 million passengers his company deals with annually.

"I find it difficult to believe that this would be a wider problem."

The ferry boss admitted, however, that he had not personally been in touch with the drivers implicated in the scandal, which has caused outrage in Sweden and received international attention.

Aftonbladet senior political commentator Lena Mellin said the reported incidents testified to the existence of "spiritual apartheid" in Sweden.

She also mentioned similar claims against another ferry company, Eckerölinjen. On Saturday, the newspaper Dagens Nyheter (DN) reported that passengers travelling from Stockholm to catch the ferry to the Finnish archipelago island of Åland were separated by the driver.

"It was a very unpleasant experience. It felt like we were on our way to Arlanda airport to be deported from Sweden," Swedish-born passenger Samer Chatila told DN.

In her impassioned editorial on Monday, Aftonbladet's Mellin also referenced the alleged indifference of ambulance drivers after a young refugee leapt from the second-storey window of a Migration Board facility in Gävle.

"Using the model from South Africa, there is an unspoken "whites only" policy on buses where Hans but not Hassan is allowed on board," she wrote.

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