13:15 GMT +316 November 2018
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    Sweden Says Sorry for 'Roma Registry,' Recompenses Victims

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    The fact that Swedish police tacitly held a registry of Roma people undoubtedly tarnished the Nordic country's reputation as a champion of human rights. After a protracted trial, the Roma victims were finally awarded millions of kronor in compensation.

    In 2013, the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter revealed that police in Sweden's southernmost Skåne County maintained a registry of Roma people. Subsequently, the news of ethnic profiling sparked outrage in Swedish society, spurring eleven Roma to sue the Swedish state.

    After a long-drawn-out dispute featuring several appeals, the High Court assessed the controversial registry as discriminatory and ruled that all entries should be entitled to a compensation of 35,000 SEK ($4,000). The Chancellor of Justice accepted the verdict, pledging to refrain from further appeals.

    In total, the registry featured 4,700 people, including more than 1,000 children. The Skåne police maintained then that the registry was based on crime, rather than ethnicity. This explanation, however, was rejected by the indignant Swedish public, as it failed to back up the large number of children in it. The Security and Integrity Protection Board assessed the Skåne police's registry as illegal, as no motivation was provided as to why it had been established in the first place.

    The total amount of compensation to be paid sits at 164 million SEK (almost $19mln). Since the police were in charge of the registry, they will also be held responsible for the compensation. The verdict becomes legally binding on May 26.

    "We are incredibly pleased that our case has led to all the people included in this ethnic registry receiving compensation. The victims were subjected to a very serious violation, and it is positive that the state finally takes responsibility for what has happened, although belated," Robert Hårdh, the director of Civil Rights Defenders, who represented the eleven Roma in court proceedings, told Swedish national broadcaster SVT.

    The number of Roma in Sweden varies between 50,000 and 100,000 according to various estimations. The Roma minority in Sweden also includes so-called "Swedish travelers," who are the descendants of the first Roma, who arrived in Sweden in the 16th century. Between 1933 and 1941, many Roma underwent forcible sterilization on eugenic grounds. Today, the Roma are an acknowledged minority, while Romani ranks as one of Sweden's five minority languages alongside Finnish, Sami, Yiddish and Tornedalian.

    In recent years, Sweden experienced an influx of Roma from southern EU nations, such as Bulgaria and Romania. This rejuvenated the long-eradicated concept of begging, which was abolished in 1964 when the Swedish welfare state was considered to be so effective that there were no poor people left. It also triggered a hot debate on whether the illegal Roma camps that mushroomed across the country should be torn down. The influx of Roma beggars also led to the appointment of a National Coordinator for Vulnerable EU Citizens.

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    Roma minority, discrimination, Scandinavia, Sweden
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