Sweden has reputation as a liberal, multicultural, and tolerant society. Perhaps as such one would not expect the outright forms of racism experienced elsewhere. There is, however, evidence of a more subtle form of racism based on cultural differentiation which is being propounded by a number of intellectuals in Sweden (see Mats Deland, “The Cultural Racism of Sweden” in Fekete, 1997). According to the proponents of this cultural racism the difficulties associated with ethnic diversity (such as economic costs and violent conflicts) outweigh the benefits, and as a result, they support segregation and ‘positive nationalism.’ By positive nationalism is meant the expression of nationalistic emotions, assimilation of immigrants into Swedish culture, and a restriction of the entry of refugees into Sweden. Associated with this thinking is the growth in racist skinhead activities and music.
In Sweden the term Tattare is rarely found anymore in official social policy discourse because Swedish Travellers were not considered a social group. Travellers themselves find the term offensive because of the pejorative connotations associated with it. The preferred term now is Traveller/Resandefolker. A member of the community is quoted describing the situation in the following way: "They've taken much away from us: the culture, the language, the way we would like to live. . ." (Halvorsen and Hvinder, 1997) Policies in the past were strongly opposed to nomadism and aimed at assimilation. A particularly harsh expression of this forced assimilation was the removal of children from their parents and their placement in institutions. There are also reports of sterilisation of Travellers to restrict their population growth. The result has been that Travellers are frequently not visible and are not in a position to organise and mobilise effectively. Travellers in Sweden are pressured to live in an underground culture which most Swedes are unaware of.
Roma in Sweden are recognised as full citizens and have formal equality but it is admitted that they experience discrimination in shops restaurants, housing, and on the labour market. Roma members claim that they experience difficulties also with police. In Sweden discrimination is forbidden by law, but in practice Roma, and especially the more recognisable women in traditional dress, experience xenophobia. The media, however, are relatively careful in its coverage of minority ethnic issues.
Efforts by the Swedish government to integrate Roma into society are viewed as having only limited success. A Working Group has been established by the government to propose new methods in order to improve the situation for Roma.
An Ombudsman, appointed in 1986, has the task of monitoring cases of discrimination, racism and xenophobia against minority ethnic groups. Work to combat racism and xenophobia in Sweden relies on the monitoring and implementation of legislation and proper procedures by the police and judiciary to ensure equality. The Nordic Romani Council operates at national level, including Roma organisations from other countries, and includes anti-racism as one of its responsibilities. There are a number of local Roma organisations as well.
One of the acknowledged features of the situation of Roma and Travellers in Sweden is poor participation in the education system, and consequently, lack of qualifications. Obviously this has implications for accessing the labour market and. given the heavy reliance on integration as a means to social equality, raises many questions about the capacity of Swedish society to be truly multi-cultural and multi-ethnic (source: Cissi N. Storck; Bo Hazell, unpublished reports).
There has been a long history of anti-racist struggles and debates in the U.K. and there is extensive legislation against discrimination. The 1976 Race Relations Act covers direct and indirect discrimination in the employment area. Local authorities have developed a range of measures to tackle racism and to promote equality. Nevertheless there is still a high level of racial harassment and violence and there are active groups associated with the National Front which promote racist ideas and actions.