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Sweden: UN experts urge intensifying efforts to end discrimination against people of African descent

GENEVA / STOCKHOLM (8 December 2014) – Afro-Swedes and Africans are subjected to racist acts and hate speech in Sweden despite efforts from the Government to combat such acts, the United Nations Working Group of experts on people of African descent has warned today.

“Afro-Swedes and Africans with whom we met expressed their experiences of multiple forms of discrimination based on their skin colour, race, religion and sex,” the human rights experts said following a five-day official visit* to Sweden.

In that regard, they stressed, “we welcome plans of the Government to develop a Human Rights Strategy and other measures that would address racial discrimination against Afro-Swedes and Africans.”

The Working Group’s commended in particular the Government’s policy to accord priority to addressing Afrophobia and awareness raising programmes on combating xenophobia and racism and various institutional mechanisms at local levels designed to prevent and combat racial discrimination.

However, they expressed its concerns “about the invisibility and lack of recognition of people of African descent as a specific vulnerable group in the country.” During their mission, the experts also heard from civil society, researchers and victims about racial discrimination in access to health, housing, employment and other essential services.

The Working Group was also informed that there is a heightened xenophobic and racist attitude against migrants and refugee communities including many people of African descent.

“Racial discrimination is also manifested in lack of equal access to justice, racial profiling and the failure to effectively investigate, prosecute and deter Afrophobic hate crimes,” they noted. “We are concerned that this creates feelings of mistrust in law enforcement bodies among communities and discourages them from accessing help when they themselves are victims of crime or rights abuses.”

“For a country that has been perceived as having a long tradition of tolerance and openness, the relative silence around racism and racial discrimination is surprising and worrying,” the Working Group pointed out.

During its mission 1-5 December, the human rights experts visited Stockholm, Malmö and Lund.

The Working group will present a report containing its findings and recommendations to the UN Human Rights Council in September 2015.

(*) Check the Working Group’s full end-of-mission statement: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=15388&LangID=E

The Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent was established on 25 April 2002 by the then Commission on Human Rights, following the World Conference against Racism held in Durban in 2001. The Working Group is composed of five independent experts serving in their personal capacities: Ms. Mireille FANON-MENDES-FRANCE (France); Chair-Rapporteur; Ms. Verene SHEPHERD (Jamaica); Mr. Sabelo Gumedze (South Africa); Mr. Ricardo A. SUNGA III (the Philippines) and Mr. Michal BALCERZAK (Poland). Learn more, visit: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Racism/WGAfricanDescent/Pages/WGEPADIndex.aspx

The UN human rights experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights, is the general name of the independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms of the Human Rights Council that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights Country Page – Sweden: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/ENACARegion/Pages/SEIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Christina Saunders, (+41 22 928 9197 / csaunders@ohchr.org) or write to africandescent@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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Check the Universal Human Rights Index: http://uhri.ohchr.org/en