A registration based on racism


Two days ago something was revealed by the Malmoe journalist  Niklas Orrenius, now working for the newspaper Dagens Nyheter/the Daily News. The news created feelings of resentment, anger and protests in many parts of society. It was revealed that the Scanian police had a secret file containing 4029 Romany people. Then another file with almost 1000 another names. Then another. There are Romany people who commit crimes and for that reason are meant to be in the police files, as part of a crime investigation. The scandal was that the files were not based on actual crimes. It was simply a question of racial profiling.

A file called “Travellers” built by police officers on order by their bosses contained a charter and lists where the police had mapped out 4029 Romany families, not just criminals, but also many people who are unpunished and living on the right side of the law. They had written down names, adressses, ages, added photos etc and drawn lines between different people and families to mark who was related to who. Not just grown up people who were living in different parts of Sweden existed in the file, but also people who were born in the late 1800’s and now are dead. Also more than 1000 children, even very small children. Of the 4029 Romany people in the first file 733 live in Malmoe, 528 in Stockholm, 380 from Göteborg/Gothenburg and 165 in Lund, as well as in other places. The 52 youngest in that first  file are only two years old.  The registration is a huge family tree made in the computer programme “Analyst’s Notebook”.

This created an outrage in media, among Romanies, the Ministers in the Government were asked if they had had knowledge about this, and a deeploading investigation has been demanded by the red-green opposition parties, but also by various debaters, officials and organizations. Beatrice Ask, Conservative Minister of Justice said: “I’m shocked, because I know we have laws and regulations which are very clear about how the police should handle people’s civic registration numbers, addressses etc.” Our Minister of Democracy, Birgitta Ohlsson, People’s Party the Liberals said in outrage: “If this is correct it just isn’t scary, it’s unethical and unacceptable. Moreover it’s also definitally illegal”. Here in Malmoe the high police officials held a press conference on the Monday afternoon. They explained that they didn’t know anything about it and put the blame on some detectives. County Police Master Klas Johansson said at the first press conference that he felt a spontaneous great awkward feeling about this. He added: “We want to get a judicial investigation about this.”… “We regret that many people feel a great unease by the information revealed. I’m a father myself. I feel strongly that we shan’t register very small children”.  Petra Stenkula, Deputy Chief of the County Criminal Investigation Department claims that there is no indication of the people registred are just Romanies, but “Travelling”.  This is according to her a cluster of information which is based on laws.  During the police press conference yesterday the three police officials in charge repeated their message: 1) They regretted that people felt insulted, and even worse that children and very small children are listed. 2) According to the Police Chiefs the name of the computer file “Travellers” didn’t mention ethnicity, but simply referred to travellers in crime. 3) The problem isn’t the registration itself, but how it has been handled. Peter Herkel, reporter at the freesheet City wrote in today’s issue that he had got an bad feeling in the stomach when he heard them repeat their message, because then they started defending the registration. When the journalists began asking questions yesterday about which crimes had been solved or prevented aided by the three computer files the answers became unclear. “It hasn’t resulted in any direct investigations, but been of quite good use in the preventive work” Thomas Nilsson replied.


This Monday evening there was a protest demonstration at Möllevångstorget/The Mill Field Square here in Malmoe where 200 people participated. The protest slogan was “Stop the police racist registration”.  Since also law-abiding Romanies and small kids were listed as well the outrage was enormous. I had planned to go there, but was otherwise engaged. I however was in contact with Mujo Halilovic, chief of Romany Knowledge and Information Centre, Kristoffer Bogdanowicz and yesterday evening the young Romany rapper and activist Dusan Marinkovic whose maternal uncle also named Dusan was murdered in former Yugoslavia by Serb Nazis. I said to him that I hope that this revelation might lead to more awareness and understanding for how to really work, and Dusan replied to me: “We can only hope”. (Read more in my texts “A struggle for Romany recognition” from May and “Sweden’s official national minorities” from March).  Erland Kaldaras at the Romany Culture Centre says: “My first reaction is that it is very awkward and frightening. There are so many small children in this list”. Another Romany activist Rosita Grönfors said: “I believe there will be more if we start investigate it. History begins to repeat itself”. When Ivan Nikolizsson was three years old his family was murdered by the Nazis in Poland. He said in an interview in the newspaper Sydsvenskan in an article by Olle Lönnaeus that: “It’s like in the days of Hitler. It began with a mapping out and registration of Romanies. Then the executions began”. .. “We are Romanies, but also part of the Swedish society. I have never stolen even a nail. Still we are registred as criminals. The Government and authorities say that they want to help us. And then this? How shall we believe them?” Ivan’s grandson Michel asks. Michel Nikolizsson is 32 years old is married and has the daughter Vanessa. Michel claims: “I feel Swedish. I eat meatballs and dance around the Midsummer Pole. But ever since school I was bullied and teased. When we Romanies go to a shop they always look suspiciously at us. Some do not even let us in. Even when I should get married and buy a suit the clothes store refused to let me in.”

The police registration of Romanies has been going on for years and years. Detective Inspector Jeanette Larsson who now also is a lecturer and has educated also the police in value issues and human rights recalls that she in the 1990’s noticed that Romany people were registred in separated files and boxes marked with the letter “Z” for “zigenare”, “G” for “Gipsy”.  In 1998 Sydsvenskan revealed that a Detective Inspector was mapping out Romanies. The mass registration of Romanies began in 2011 after a crime investigation in 2009. The police feared a Romany family quarrel between two fractions in Staffanstorp. Mats Åhlund from the Crown Prosecution Service says that a  crime investigation will be made. The police though will make a report about law breaking as legal proceedings against the Secrecy Act after the information about the three big Romay registrations have been given to Dagens Nyheter.

The first Romanies came to Sweden in 1512 and different groups have been added later. Ever since the beginning they have been outcasts, persecuted, excluded and killed. In the 1700’s and 1800’s though Romany men became appreciated rifle men in the Swedish armies, and rewarded for bravery. But apart from that the treatment has been very rejecting. Since the end of World War II when one million Romanies at least were killed in the Nazi Holocaust the situation and treatment in Sweden has slowly become a tiny little better, especially since the 1960’s. In 1999 the Romanies were given place according to Swedish law as one of Sweden’s five minority peoples protected by Swedish law: the aboriginal Sámit, Torne Valley Finns, Finns, Romanies and Jews. In September 2012 the Romanies commemorated their 500 years in Sweden. What will happen now? Will we find a human, humanitarian democratic road onwards or a fascist, Nazi future? What society do we want?

Anders Moberg, September 25th 2013.

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