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Swedish Police Have Been Keeping a Secret Dossier On Roma People

I went to watch some enraged Swedes protest in the street.

Yesterday, it was announced that a register was being kept by Swedish police that contains detailed information about 4,029 people of Roma descent. According to the newspaper Dagens Nyheter, more than half of the people included on the register have no criminal record and there were 1,000 children on the list who are too young to have even committed a crime – some as young as two years old. All of which would seem to imply that when the Swedish police were compiling the list, they were creating a small but perfectly lazy and borderline racist monitoring network. Lawyers interviewed by Dagens Nyheter pointed out that the database breaks several laws, including the European Convention on Human Rights, police data laws and the law against general police surveillance registries. Anna Troberg, leader of the Swedish Pirate Party, was quick to express her outrage, tweeting: "“I wake up to the news of the police cataloguing Romani. This makes me enraged to all fucking hell.”

Annoncering

A few hours after the register's existence was reported, demonstrators took to the streets to give the police a piece of their mind. I ventured out to see what they had to say.

More than 200 infuriated human rights activists, anti-racists and concerned citizens turned up at Möllevångstorget (a public square) in Malmö. As often happens at protests, angry speeches were made. One person took to the mic to remind the crowd that, “this was how the Holocaust started”, which seemed somehow both a bit rash and actually quite accurate.

Mattias Gardell.

I decided to chat to some of the protesters.

“People think that Sweden is a utopia for immigrants and refugees. But what happened today shows that obvious racism still exists,” Mattias Gardell, a professor at Uppsala University, told me.

When I talked to Mujo Halilovic from the Roma Association in Malmö, he had a lot of questions. “How can we have children in the police register? What happens when they grow up? Will they be persecuted for the rest of their lives? How can we trust the police when this happens?”

The police had held a press conference earlier that afternoon, at which spokespeople expressed shock and dismay, and assured the public that investigations are underway. Looking around the square, I got the impression that this hadn't placated any of the protesters very much at all.

Jallow Momodou, Vice President of the European Network Against Racism (ENAR), wasn't convinced. “Nothing’s going to happen. They’ll just get a scapegoat in the meantime and wait for things to blow over. We need them to give us a proper answer,” he said. After about an hour, everyone left, muttering about how awful the police are under their breath.

Annoncering

Luckily, the police are investigating the matter. I guess we can trust an organisation that has been assuming criminality is an intrinsic trait of one of Sweden's ethnic groups to hold itself to account in a fair way. We'll see, I guess.

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