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Home >> Resources >> External publications >> Sweden: Racist and xenophobic hate speech on the rise despite considerable (...)

Sweden: Racist and xenophobic hate speech on the rise despite considerable preventive efforts

February 27th 2018

The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) today published its fifth report on Sweden in which it analyses legislatives issues, racist and homo-/transphobic hate speech and violence as well as integration policies. In the report, ECRI makes recommendations to the authorities (see also the Swedish version of the report).

ECRI welcomes the positive developments in Sweden since the previous report in 2012. The government has launched a National Plan to combat racism, similar forms of hostility and hate crime. The Swedish Media Council has received resources to tackle online xenophobia and intolerance among children and youth and the Defense Research Agency has been tasked to monitor extremist Internet propaganda. In addition, the authorities have made larger-scale efforts to address the need to integrate the extraordinary high number of refugees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection who arrived during 2015, with the aim to facilitate their access to the labour market. There is also a new housing policy package and a long-term reform programme to reduce segregation.

However, some issues give rise to concern. Sweden´s criminal, civil and administrative law provisions are still not entirely in line with ECRI´s General Policy Recommendation No 7 on national legislation. In spite of the introduced legislation on establishing criminal responsibility for genocide, there is still no prohibition of the public denial, trivialisation, justification or condoning, with a racist aim, of crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes. There is also a lack of legislation to criminalise the creation or the leadership of a group which promotes racism, support for such a group or participation in its activities. Sweden should also add discrimination on the ground of language as well as segregation to the forms of discrimination listed in the Discrimination Act and enact legislation making it possible to withdraw public financing from parties promoting racism and to disband such organisations.

The number of incidents of racist and xenophobic hate speech has been rising over recent years, in particular in the context of large-scale arrivals of migrants and refugees and in spite of serious efforts by the Swedish authorities to prevent such hate speech. The main target groups are migrants, Muslims, Black persons and Roma. Antisemitic hatred remains a problem, and the clearance rate of hate crimes remains low.

Among the recommendations, the following two are to be implemented on a priority basis and will be the subject of interim follow-up by ECRI within two years:

  • Adequate powers and expertise to investigate discrimination by all public authorities, including law enforcement agencies, should be vested in the Ombuds institutions; and the Parliamentary Ombudsman should work in consultation with the Equality Ombudsman in these cases.
  • Sweden should also review the Introduction Programme for refugees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection with the aim of strengthening it and achieving higher success rates in labour market participation, with a special attention to the specific needs of women.

The report was prepared following ECRI’s visit to Sweden in February 2017 and takes account of developments up to 21 June 2017, except where expressly indicated.

Via ECRI website

The Equality Ombudsman

As set out in the Act concerning the Equality Ombudsman (2008), the Equality Ombudsman is an independent authority which supervises compliance with the Discrimination Act. To this end, the Ombudsman may, inter alia, receive and consider complaints from individuals who allege that they have been victims of discrimination. The Ombudsman has most of the competences set out in ECRI’s GPR No. 7 § 24, including the power to bring legal action for damages on behalf of the individual concerned.

However, ECRI notes that the Discrimination Act, and therefore by extension also the mandate of the Equality Ombudsman, does not fully cover all actions of public authorities. Substantial aspects of the work of law enforcement agencies, for example, are not covered. In the case of a Roma database maintained by the Skåne regional police service, for instance, this led to a problematic situation in which the Equality Ombudsman’s mandate to investigate the accusation of ethnic profiling was severely limited.