Swedish police's Roma register ruled illegal

The Local Sweden
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Swedish police's Roma register ruled illegal
Rosita Grönfors after meeting with the integration minister (in the background) to discuss the database. File: TT

A register kept by police in southern Sweden with thousands of names of Roma Swedes had "several illegal aspects", an investigation ruled on Friday, although it also said the database was not based on ethnicity.


The list, which was dubbed ”kringresande” after the old-fashioned Swedish term for travelling communities, was established for no clear reason, the Swedish Commission on Security and Integrity Protection (Säkerhets- och integritetsskyddsnämnden - SIN) noted in its ruling.  

"An undefined purpose gives no framework to the personal data, which in practice undermines the protection of individuals' integrity," the ruling read.

The SIN report also concluded that there had been no need to add all the names in the database, which Skåne County police said was originally put together to keep tabs on Roma in the south suspected of crime. The list ballooned, however, including children, reporters at public service radio's Romani Chib broadcast, and even in-laws of Roma Swedes, and people who had passed away. 

The official SIN review looked into a random selection of 1,235 of the total of 3,413 people on the list who were not children. The list also included deceased persons that were not included in the review.

Skåne County police has claimed the list was assembled to "fight a criminal network" rather than to keep tabs on people of a specific ethnicity.

The revelation that the database existed, however, was deemed so problematic that the police themselves reported its existence to the police. Sweden's National Police Commissioner Bengt Svenson soon responded by demanded that all of the country's police heads go over their own databases.

"I hope and pray to god that this is the only registry of this kind," he said at the press conference last month. "It's upsetting. This is completely unacceptable and I cannot understand the purpose of it."

Further critique made public on Friday was how the datebase was put together. It was unclear why names were logged and it was not clear if person in the list was suspected of crime. There was no clear link between the names and criminality, the report found. 

While the domincance of Roma names could "give the impression" that its sole focus was ethnicity, SIN found that the original intention was to map social and family networks around persons suspected of crime.

SIN will now await word from Skåne County police on how they intend to deal with the database. 


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